An international peer reviewed e-journal brought out by the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs), Edinburgh Napier University
We are in an exceptionally new situation, but elements of older experiences may clarify our vision if one finds the proper means of access.’1 (2016)
What role do writers and artists play in these critical times? Do they stand apart or do they engage with the times and reflect on ‘older experiences’ to ‘clarify our vision’ in order to understand how we have come to this or does the imaginary give them a window of opportunity to look to the future and ponder what lies ahead and consider how we can shape our future?We can transpose this description by Wald of Traverse’s perspective on the times we live in as ‘exceptional’ and ‘new’, something we have never encountered before except in dystopian literature as we face a ‘new normal’ with nations across the world responding to a confounding pandemic by directives to citizens to ‘stay at home’, prohibiting international travel and urging people to work from home, while education switches from face-to-face classroom learning to online interaction.
In ‘The Religion of the Forest’, Rabindranath Tagore says,
We stand before this great world. The truth of our life depends upon our attitude of mind towards it… For us the highest purpose of this world is not merely living in it, knowing it and making use of it, but realizing our own selves in it through expansion of sympathy, not alienating ourselves from it and dominating it, but comprehending and uniting it with ourselves in perfect union.2
His friend and educational collaborator, Patrick Geddes, shares a similar view when he says,
…the conservation of Nature, and for the increase of our accesses to her, must be stated more seriously and strongly than is customary. Not merely begged for on all grounds of amenity, of recreation, and repose, sound though these are, but insisted upon. On what grounds? In terms of the maintenance and development of life; of the life of youth, of the health of all…’3
In 2019 the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) led by Professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz and Eduardo Brondizio came to the conclusion that human society is in peril as it is confronted by the alarming pace of erosion of the Earth’s resources, those very ‘natural life-support systems’ which are essential for our existence and continuity4. And human society is the subject of literature, art and culture. The scientists urge us to think of mankind, the earth’s creatures and the natural world as one continuous reality. This then becomes an existential battle for survival – not just of the fittest but for all life on earth.
In ‘Writers and Leviathan’ George Orwell says, ‘This is a political age. War, Fascism, concentration camps, rubber truncheons, atomic bombs, etc are what we daily think about, and therefore to a great extent what we write about, even when we do not name them openly. We cannot help this. When you are on a sinking ship, your thoughts will be about sinking ships’5(1948). Should writers and artists feel a sense of responsibility for this ‘sinking ship’ of our planet, and can they, through their writing and art, bring a new consciousness that can propose to revert this desperate situation and steady the ‘ship’ of our lives battling a perilous ocean?
Gitanjali and Beyond invites writers and artists to respond to these exceptional times in a special issue, as we debate the effects of accelerating climate change which Amitav Ghosh has warned us about in The Great Derangement (2017)6, and the causes behind the planetary degradation we witness today and conceptualise what kind of a world we would like to leave to our younger generations. We have just seen evidence of a catastrophe in the fury of the super-cyclone, the Amphan, which has devastated Kolkata and the southern districts of West Bengal and the coastal areas of Bangladesh. Can we rely on the ‘expansion of sympathy’ for the ‘conservation of Nature’ in a new consciousness that proposes a ‘Unity of all things’ (Tagore)?
We invite reflective essays, memoirs, poetry, short fiction, one-act plays, excerpts from longer creative writing and visual art from writers and artists for a Special Issue of Gitanjali and Beyond on The Unity of All Things.
The word limit for prose pieces (short stories, memoirs, essays) is 2,000 words, poems: no more than 40 lines, plays: no more than 10 A4 sheets. Font for main text: Times New Roman, font size: 12; font for any footnotes: Tahoma, font size: 10. References/bibliography (if included) need to adhere to the MHRA Style Guide. (See https://gitanjaliandbeyond.co.uk for guidance).
Submission deadline: 15 September 2020
All submissions will need to be accompanied by a short bio of 150 words.
All submissions and enquiries may be made to the following email address:
gitanjaliandbeyond (at) gmail.com
For prose pieces, the MHRA Style Sheet Guidelines are available at:
1 Alan Wald, Review of Enzo Traverse’s Fire and Blood (2016) in Solidarity, July-August, 2016).
2 Rabindranath Tagore, ‘The Religion of the Forest’, in Ed. Sisir K. Das, The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1996), Vol 2; Also see Eds. Bashabi Fraser, Tapati Mukherjee and Amrit Sen, A Confluence of Minds: The Rabindranath Tagore and Patrick Geddes Reader on Education and the Environment (Edinburgh: Luath Press 2017; Santiniketan: Visva-Bharati Press, 2017).
3 Patrick Geddes, ‘Ways to the Neotechnic City’ in Cities in Evolution: An Introduction to the Town Planning Movement and to the Study of Civics (1915, Creative Media Partners, LLC., 2018); Also see Eds. Bashabi Fraser, Tapati Mukherjee and Amrit Sen, A Confluence of Minds: The Rabindranath Tagore and Patrick Geddes Reader on Education and the Environment (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2017; Santiniketan: Visva-Bharati Press, 2017).
4 See Report on ‘IPBES: Nature’s dangerous decline ‘unprecedented,’ species extinction rates ‘accelerating’, Released on eurekalert.org, 6 May 2019.
5 George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 (1948, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World Incorporated, 1968).
6 Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016)