This is a guest post by PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY
[Dissidence comes along with responsibility. If that sounds an utter sell out, one has to look back no further than the career and oeuvre of John Milton, whose 400th Anniversary is being celebrated around the world.]
Students of English literature usually do not prefer meddling too much with politics, especially if that comes in the way of appreciating the hermeneutics of the text, the lyricism set aside for the work of art. Sophisticated scholars have learnt to deftly negotiate and work with Marxism, new historicism and cultural criticism, without compromising on the finer points of close reading. They have also welcomed areas like textual studies and performance and newer genres like memoirs, broadsheets, travelogues, petitions, graphic fiction and so forth within the critical ambit with a careful eye that such forays do not destabilize the Great Book tradition. Students of politics and the political, on the other hand, have a certain distrust for soft aesthetic options. In one interesting recent interview, James Scott, who routinely uses Zola and Tolstoy in his classes and works, lamented in jest on his status at the Yale Political Science Department as an outlier, blaming it onto the ascendancy and monopoly of formal and rational choice models in the discipline.