Ingrafting: A Response to the Theory of Interiorization

Ingrafting: A Response to the Theory of Interiorization

This essay by the late Professor Krishna Rayan is perhaps the first published response to the concept of antassannivesha or interiorisation as it was being formulated.


Abstract: This article looks closely at the stylistic methods employed by Ayyappa Paniker. It consists largely of summaries, free translations and explanations of parts of Ayyappa Paniker’s essays on sannivesa. The article aims at expanding knowledge over the concepts of literary stylistics such as ingrafting and ongrafting. Aspects of modernism and modes of discourses are discussed, pertaining Paniker’s works. The article highlights the use of metaphorical usages that were found in poetry and epics.

Keywords: Ayyappa Paniker, Paniker’s literary theory, Ingrafting, Ongrafting, metonymy, Paniker’s essays, message poems, Ramayana, use of metaphor, epics, modes of discourses, modernism

In what can turn out to be a seminal formulation, Ayyappa Paniker, the distinguished Malayalam poet, has recently offered a theory of two types of sannivesha. Running one word into another, one image into another, or one text into another can be done in two ways. One can be fixed upon the other– this would be uparisannivesha. Alternatively, one can be darkly concealed inside the other, consciously or unconsciously — this would be antassannivesha. Uparisannivesha, insertion upon, is related to the principle of rendering manifest; antassannivesha is related to the principle of rendering obscure. Both are relevant to the theory of literature. Although they are disparate, the two can appear to be a continuation of each other. Both can sometimes be present in the same text. A mixture of them can appear in some complex images or texts. There can be words, images or texts, which have one or the other solely.

The term sannivesha can be translated as ‘grafting’, i.e., inserting a scion or shoot from one plant on or in another plant. In La Dissemination, Derrida points out how the analogy between ‘forms of vegetal grafting’ and ‘forms of textual grafting’ needs to be examined. Although he rejects the conceptual opposition on which western philosophical thought is founded, inside/ outside binary is among the chief of them, grafting in the literal sense can only be described as either attaching the shoot on the outside of the stem or effecting an entry into its inside. Similarly, either two discourses can be bound side by side or one discourse can be inserted in another. The two procedures can be termed extragrafting and intragrafting, or more simply, Ongrafting and Ingrafting.

. . . The ingrafting/ongrafting dichotomy corresponds to the antinomy set out sixteen years before Derrida in Roman Jakobson’s theory of the metaphoric and metonymic as opposed modes of discourse, and of selection and combination as its two axes. Discourse consists in picking out an item from each of several sets, paradigms, of similar and mutually substitutable words and combining them in a sentence, syntagm. These two actions are, respectively, selection and combination based on the principle of contiguity; they correspond to metaphor and metonymy….

In the ninth century and earlier, Sanskrit literary theory examined in great depth what it called lakshana, secondary meaning and the relations between the primary and the secondary referents. These are based either on the category of sadrsya, similarity or on sadrsyetara, relations other than similarity, such as samavaya or sahacarya or association, and samipya or sannidhya or proximity. The two categories correspond to gauni lakshana, metaphor and suddha lakshana, metonymy respectively.

. . . Metaphor, as we know it today, consists in merging two items which are similar, one being the tenor and the other the vehicle; the vehicle can be said to be inserted into the tenor. Metonymy, on the other hand, juxtaposes two items making them contiguous, and also binds or combines them. While defining metaphor as based on similarity, a qualification has been added, favouring the maintenance of a distance or disparity between the two elements. Modernism has pushed this farther and advocated incongruity and even opposition. . . .

There is no evidence in Paniker’s essays that he has borrowed from Derrida or Jakobson or Sanskrit theory. What they do show is that he has evolved his concept of antassannivesha/uparisannivesha from the traditional antara/bahya, inside/outside opposition, which we have translated as ingrafting/ongrafting. To clarify the dichotomy, he invokes another pair of contraries; paroksha/pratyaksha, obscure/manifest. Ingrafting has the effect of rendering the text relatively opaque and difficult. Ongrafting makes for transparency, lucidity, directness.

A statement like this on a high level of generality does not perhaps throw enough light on the nuances of Paniker’s theory, and we have to turn to the illustrations that he cites. The first is the vision of Krishna described in Ezhuthacchan’s celebrated passage. In the Kurukshetra battle, Arjuna and Karna are seeking each other out for the final confrontation, and Karna asks Shalya, his charioteer, where Arjuna is; but Shalya describes not Arjuna, but Krishna, as the two bear down on them. The description turns out to be not anything from the Mahabharata text, but a rapturous paean created by Ezhuthacchan celebrating the form of his chosen god, sculpted as on marble on his meditating consciousness. In order to do so, the bounds of plot and character have been broken, halting the course of the battle in one of the great climactic moments. Writing his own being into the objectivity and universality of the epic, stamping the traditionally sanctified image of Krishna with his own individual spirituality, dissolving the ecstasy within his own self into the cast-iron impersonality of the formidable epic, and locating the vision of the divine in the eyes of the adversary’s charioteer — only ingrafting could make these daring manoeuvres possible.

The experience reported is enacted in the very movement of Malayalam verse and no translation is possible. The other problem here is the ambiguity in the context — who is speaking here, Shalya or Ezhuthacchan? But this is a very common situation in literary texts; as a certain literary theory would have it, it is perhaps no more than an illusion of ambiguity — but that is another story. As it happens, Paniker has mentioned a comparable case from English poetry in the same essay, if in a different context — it is perhaps a classroom cliché, but is useful here. In Paradise Lost, Milton declares in the invocation that his object is to justify the ways of God to man. Yet in the very first book, Satan, the rebel archangel who has been expelled from Heaven, becomes the hero, by virtue of his. . . unconquerable will,/And study of revenge, immortal hate,/And courage never to submit or to yield. Into Satan’s rage and defiance has been ingrafted Milton’s own political passion, the smouldering indignation of someone who had been Latin Secretary in the Protectorate and is now condemned to the limbo. One of the many differences between the case of Milton and the case of Ezhuthacchan is that Milton’s Puritan fervour is an extended presence in the epic, while Ezhuthacchan’s extraordinary experience of Krishna — Krishna the adorable boy, Krishna the king and the master tactician of the Mahabharata war, and Vishnu in Vaikunta — fused into one in a single epiphanic instant by the poet before a reader who accords his assent, blinded by its intense radiance, to a bold ingraft. The author forcing his entry into the text and the resulting ambiguity about the identity of the narrator is a universal practice, but the legitimacy of the reader’s interest in it has been questioned by such theories as the Intentional Fallacy and the Death of the Author. The practice however continues, and as recently as in December 1999, we have A.N. Wilson saying; ‘The novelist is one who puts his own life into story form in the most artless of ways.’ We have all smiled at the blurb of modern novels in which the summary of the story and the author’s potted biography seem interchangeable.

Kalidasa’s Meghadut is a sandeshakavya, message poem, as the literary species is called. It is by definition an extended plaint of love, pain, and forlorn desire sent by a parted lover to his beloved through a courier, animate or inanimate, but being a long poem, it tends to transcend the lyrical mode and length and stray into objective description and extended narration. Paniker’s important insight here is that underneath the Yaksha’s message which constitutes the poem, there exists as a palimpsest the message sent by Rama to Sita through Hanuman and that the differences in length and other formal characteristics between the Sundarakanda episode and Kalidasa’s poem result from the fact that the Ramayana originated long before the message poem was introduced. But is the Ramayana’s penetration into the Meghadut a case of ongrafting or a case of ingrafting? Was Kalidasa conscious of it? Paniker does mention that Kalidasa’s opening stanza has references to Sita and Ramagiri. I may add that Kalidasa’s comparison of the Yakshi’s wasted body to the silver moon is paralleled in Valmiki’s description of the emaciated Sita in the Asoka grove. Paniker however feels that although Kalidasa must of course have recalled the Ramayana episode, not many readers will do so, and the entry of the Hanumaddut into the Meghadut will not be apparent. It is therefore a case of ingrafting — ingrafting defined by obscurity.

. . . Although this case of sannivesha bridges such a wide time span that not all readers, as Paniker says, would connect the two texts, the texts are at least in the same language and in the same literary tradition. A far more complex case of sannivesha that I can think of has occurred across the enormous divides between Western and Indian, between modern and ancient and between myth and fiction — the case of the Bhagavatam and Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The story of Krishna and the gopis and the story of Angel Clare and the milkmaids are set in Gokula and the Talbothays Dairy — bucolic paradises of opulent beauty. In both cases, a somewhat isolated community is being joined by an outsider of a ‘superior class’ — a royal infant and an educated youth. The two are opposites: Krishna buoyantly apollonian, Angel somewhat saturnine. The eternal boy of Vrindavan is a paragon of looks and liveliness; the Parson’s son is a staid introvert. Yet, they have much in common. Both are adored by the milkmaids with exceptional romantic intensity, but the infatuation is free of jealousy. The two young men participate in a young women’s annual dance — Angel in a marginal role in the May Day dance in Mariott, and Krishna in a dominant role in the Sharatpurnima dance in Vrindavan. Angel plays daily on a harp and Krishna on a flute and the music weans a powerful enchantment on the milkmaids. In identifying these shared features, the Bhagavatam has been treated here as a literary text and its spiritual/ mystical meaning has been bracketed. The striking correspondences through which the sannivesha works here could have been classed as ‘intertextual archetypes’ — Umberto Eco’s term for ‘a pre-established and frequently appearing narrative cited or in some way recycled by other texts.’ But the kind of intertextuality that Eco is thinking of occurs within a given culture or given age; whereas the episodes in the two dairies are separated by an enormous cultural and temporal distance. Besides, the Dorchester recluse who wrote Tess could have, by no stretch of the imagination, had any access to the Krishna myth. It is thus a classic case of ingrafting — unconscious, inexplicable and mysterious. . . .

Further examples of ingrafting which Paniker offers include some from Balamaniamma’s great poetic oeuvre. There are her retellings of puranic legends such as those of Vishwamitra and Vibhishana. In these, in investing the ancient contexts with contemporary significance, modern contexts have been ingrafted into the new versions. In ‘Valmiki,’ into the sage poet’s words to the hunter who had killed the amorous bird, the sage’s own violent past as a hunter which was buried deep within now ingrafts itself.

As for uparisannivesha, ongrafting, a striking illustration that Paniker offers is the episode in which Bhima chances upon Hanuman. The way the conversation between the two sons of Vayu, the god of the winds, links the two epics, and the way what Hanuman says has the effect, not spelled out by the poet Kunchan Nambiar, of equipping his younger brother with the self-mastery and spiritual strength now needed to shoulder his role in the war are important cases of ingrafting. But equally important is the ongrafting, which consists in providing the factual framework of the meeting — in sequentially arranging the circumstances leading to the meeting and the circumstances of the meeting itself. Paniker also cites two of Vallathol’s poems to illustrate the contrast between ongrafting and ingrafting. In ‘My Teacher,’ the poet lists the great virtues of the greatest men, like Mohammed’s strength of will, Christ’s spirit of renunciation, and Ranti Deva’s compassion, and declares that those who wish to see them united in one person should meet his teacher or read the story of his life. An explicit laying out of a set of parallels alongside of the object of praise leaves little to the imagination and is a typical case of ongrafting. On the other hand, in the poem ‘Father and Daughter,’ the daughter’s prayer ‘May my son not share my fate,’ has the effect of invoking the whole story of the play, Shakuntalam, and ingrafting it into the text.

In order to clarify the relationship between the two entities, i.e., what is ingrafted and what it is ingrafted into, we have been applying the distinctions inside/ outside, manifest/ latent, explicit/ implied, surface/ deep, lucid/ obscure, etc. But Paniker insists that the distinction is not one of difference, but one of direct and active opposition. What gives the text its complexity and vitality is the unresolved irreconcilability of the two components. Paniker emphasizes the hermaphroditism of the text: the presence of the male in the female and of the female in the male.

After reading Balamaniamma’s ‘Valmiki,’ as suggestive of the hunter within the sage, Paniker warns that this interpretation brings us to a point of view which few would like to express or listen to. Several of Balamaniamma’s best poems are songs of burning desire, of rajasik passion. The tales of Parashurama’s slaying of Renuka, Vishwamitra’s union with Menaka, and Ravana’s infatuation for Sita are tales of passion, contemplated, however, by the poet’s sattvik poise of mind. A well-known Balamaniamma poem opens with a young wife taking her first-born held to her chest to her husband while the dawn applies kumkum to her forehead. Beneath this pretty-pretty image lurks a contrary mood. Again, it is difficult to read Balamaniamma’s poem ‘A love story’ and miss any of the heat and glare, the stinging fragrance and the intense desire, that rage underneath the contemplative tranquility. Even as an unborn baby girl inhabits her mother’s body as a foetus, Kamala Surayya camps
within her mother as a potential force. In Kamala Surayya’s translation of Balamaniamma’s poem ‘Vibhishanan,’ when Rama’s direction to Sita, ‘Reveal your purity of heart,’ is turned into the stern injunction, ‘Prove your chastity, woman,’ Kamala Surayya is not importing into it but only revealing the harsh meaning already ingrafted by the poet, consciously or unconsciously, into Rama’s mild-sounding utterance.

In Lanka lakshmi, the play in Sreekantan Nair’s Ramayana trilogy, it would appear at first blush that in order to present Ravana’s glory, Rama has been marginalized, in fact consigned to oblivion. Yet in effect the dismissal of the hero to the outer dark and the installation of the adversary in the centre only serves to enhance Rama’s glory. Each reverse, each death in Ravana’s camp reinforces and reflects the unseen ascendancy of Rama’s forces. The Ramayana has thus been effectively ingrafted into Srikantan Nair’s “Ravanayana.”

. . . I had occasion four years ago to reexamine the conventional practice of identifying the dominant rasa of the Mahabharata as shanta in the face of a text pervaded by deception, betrayal, outrage, bestiality, privation and pain. The grounds commonly pleaded — that the concluding parvas are ruled by a note of abatement and detachment, and that a shastrakavya should uphold moksha, which is linked to shanta, as the supreme goal — are unconvincing. One senses, however, that down the enormous length of the epic, subverting the violence and turbulence on the surface, there courses an undercurrent of quietude and serenity. T.S. Eliot’s reading of the Elizabethan play, John Marston’s The Tragedy of Sophonisba, is uncannily similar: ‘In spite of the tumultuousness of the action, and the ferocity and horror of certain parts of the play, there is an underlying serenity.’ And earlier on, ‘It is possible that what distinguishes poetic drama from prose drama is a kind of doubleness in the action, as if it took place on two planes at once.’ Eliot’s concept of two planes related not by congruence but by contradiction is shared by the well-known Shakespeare critic of his time, L.C. Knights, who speaks of an emotional undercurrent in Shakespeare’s plays which mainly determines the meaning of the play and is not just discrete from but is opposed to the surface level made up of plot and character. The opposition is between the dominant images, originating, to repeat a common assumption, in the unconscious, and the conscious intention. In Hamlet, the persistent imagery of disease and decay generates a sense of universal corruption which cancels out Hamlet’s special sense of personal guilt, which is the overt reigning emotion of the play. And in Macbeth, the frequent images of breeding, birth, food, sleep and fellowship build up the life-affirming emotion and weaken the pervasive sense of evil on the surface. The subliminally originated and subliminally functioning imagery is the ingrafted element in the plays and defeats or enfeebles the intended meaning….

The conflict between the life-affirming drive and the tragic drive in Macbeth is re-enacted in Kumaran Asan’s poems, with a difference. In them, says Paniker, into the conscious death wish of the heroines — Nalini, Leela, Vasavadatta and others — is ingrafted Asan’s faith in life; within or beneath the overt will to die there throbs an untameable love of life.

Ayyappa Paniker’s theory can be briefly, if all too inadequately, summed up thus:

• A poem, play or novel carries the other poem, play or novel. The latter is the ingrafted component.

• What is ingrafted and what it is ingrafted into exist in a state of mutual opposition.

• The ingrafted matter, which originated subliminally and functions subtextually, always has ascendancy over the conscious surface meaning.

The theory, when applied, generates a whole range of insights and is bound to prove a major addition to literary theory.

This essay consists largely of summaries, free translations and explanations of parts of Ayyappa Paniker’s essays on sannivesa. Brief and incidental remarks by me appear here and there, and it has not been possible to mark them as mine, not Paniker’s. Where, however, I have made substantial additions and comments, these are in separate paragraphs, each of which has been marked with three dots at the start and three at the end.

 Eminent critic and professor of English. Author of Suggestion and Statement in Poetry. Text and Sub-Text, Sahitya: A Theory and numerous articles.

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Eminent critic and professor of English. Author of Suggestion and Statement in Poetry. Text and Sub-Text, Sahitya: A Theory and numerous articles.

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