Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Tympanising Philosophy: Luxating the Disciplinary Margins through a Derridean Reading of the Mahabharata

Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Tympanising Philosophy: Luxating the Disciplinary Margins through a Derridean Reading of the Mahabharata

Article excerpt

I have attempted more and more systematically to find a non-site, or a nonphilosophical site, from which to question philosophy. [...] My central question is: from what site or non-site (non-lieu) can philosophy as such appear to itself as other than itself, so that it can interrogate and reflect upon itself in an original manner?1

The present excursus argues for an alignment of 'embattled adversaries', namely philosophy and literature, and it does that by referring to Derridàs seminal work, Margins of Philosophy. To press further our argument about the alliance of philosophy and literature, we also allude to Indian philosophy and the great Indian philosophico-literary epic, the Mahabharata. Foundational Indian philosophic texts such as the Vedas and the Upanishads and countless other subsequent metaphysical texts were articulated through poetic hymns which are endowed with rich literary inflexions. This literary inscape of Indian philosophical texts is 'in-stressed stressed' and substantiated when Bharatamuni - the ancient author of Natyashastra, the celebrated dissertation on Indian drama and dramaturgy - defined the genre of drama as the 'Fifth Veda'. There are four Vedas in Indian philosophy and they are regarded as the foundational core of Indian metaphysical tradition and when Bharatamuni elevates drama as the 'Fifth Veda' he does that on the assumption that drama is born out of the literary seeds ingrained or embedded within the Vedas which are primarily known as philosophico-religious texts.2

All these assumptions on the part of Bharatamuni signify the close kinship or non-duality of philosophy and literature and in what follows we take up this coalition of philosophy and literature to hint at a possible commonwealth of epistemic possibilities and to do that we bring in Derrida's plea for blurring all genre distinctions between philosophy and philosophy's Other, i.e. literature. Derrida began his Margins of Philosophy (1982) with a call for tympanising philosophy and by 'tympanising' he means to problematise the traditional definition of philosophy. If one elaborates it further, we understand that Derrida frequently used the terms 'tympanum' or 'tympanon' to signify the unicity of philosophy or its circumscription within its own sovereign 'ipseity'. The tympanum is the closely guarded border that totalises the regimes and sovereign mastery of philosophy. This intransigent border patrolling to retain its unique totality has been debunked by Derrida when he talked of de-totalising philosophy or gnawing at its border through a 'limitrophic' violence, a violence that opens up the conversation with philosophy`s Other. Derrida names literature as philosophy`s self-appointed Other, something that philosophy has been excluding for many centuries3and Plato's expulsion of the poet testifies that conscripted unicity of philosophy that does not allow its borders to be luxated.

Philosophemes, Derrida complains, generally disallow semiotic egalitarianism and any logic of heteronomy is denied the importance it deserves. The margins of philosophy, therefore, generate a sovereign 'envelopment' and 'hierarchy' and Derrida in his Margins of Philosophy asked for the blurring of such boundaries, for de-tympanising the imperial borders of philosophy. The present paper attempts such de-tympanisation of the boundaries which philosophy erects around itself through a deconstructive analysis of the Mahabharata, the Indian foundational text which enjoys a unique disciplinary non-site as mentioned in the beginning in the words of Derrida. Derrida has previously been linked with Eastern philosophic paradigms and theological traditions in several works4 and the present paper continues to explore the possibilities of similar alignments between Derridean deconstructive templates and the Mahabharata.

Let us add here a note for the sake of convenience. Tympanum is something that inhabits the border, that activates the border itself, and that keeps the pressure from either side of the border in taut balance. …

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