Posted by: alok | March 27, 2006

Lessons from World Literature – 1

“Who has time for literature anymore? You probably don’t – but you should. Start with Shakespeare and end
with Freud, and watch how your view of life and work changes. I believe that literature does have a fundamental truth to teach in regard to change: change always arises out of unexpected. It may be the unexpectedness of self-knowledge through over hearing yourself or it may be imposed upon you by external events. By reading great imaginative literature, you can prepare yourself for surprise and even get a kind of strength that welcomes and expolits the unexpected” – Harold Bloom.

My first reaction was ‘what crap, its just bullshit’. So I took one course at ISB just for the heck of it, just to hear stories and no assignments :). But now towards the end of the course, my views are slightly different. Courtesy LLWL course here at ISB.

Changing the course title of one of the subjects that I liked a lot. The original name is ‘LLWL’ – Leadership Lessons from World Literature. An interesting subject to study, but I think its not only the leadership lessons that can be learnt from literature but a lot more. And so the title of the post. The first in the sequel.

Disclaimer: Though I am influenced by Prof. Rajeshwar Upadhayaya, but the views here are personal, and in all case the ‘I’ in me will prevail in my writings.

“There’s nothing quixotic about learning leadership from world literature.”

The interesting part to note in the great literary works is the influence that contemporary society has on the author and how ‘hardwired’ the author is. Talking about ‘hardwired’ – most of us are ‘hardwired’ to act in the way we do. If for a moment, I believe Charles Darwin – we have evolved from apes to being a man, and looking at the timeline we the humans (homo-sapiens) have been around for only 10,000 years, and we as apes have lived for more than 100,000 years. So is it not true that 90% of our brain is ape-like and only 10% is humanely…?? And if you extend it further, 99% or more of our behaviour is beast-like..!!! So the first instinct of a man is to behave like an ape.

Even if we look at the society in last 5000 years or so, it has been mostly agrarian till 1850 or so, and then it was industrial, and now we can call ourselves in a state of being ‘pseudo intellect’ – trying to prove that we are better than ‘God’, we can conquer ‘Nature’..!!!! So where’s the world literature part in all this prologue?

In our course, we studied Ramayana, Gita, Odysseus/Ulysses, Abhigyan Shankutalam, Oedipus Rex, Don Quixote, Francis Bacon, Julius Ceaser, Nietzsche – Thus spake Zarathustra, Emerson, Wasteland by Eliot, Camus-The Outsider, Gandhi, India: a wounded civilization – V.S. Naipul. Add to it quotes from Sigmund Freud, Bible and contemporary corporate writers like Steven Covey.

If you look at the selection of literature, it starts with 5000 B.C. covering the entire history to today.

The following sequels will have what i could make out of these works.

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