When Kalyani Vallath started preparing notes for her fledgling UGC-NET coaching centre at Pattom, it was a welcome digression from the rigours of entrepreneurship. Over the last 15 years, her centre, Vallath’s Total English Solutions (TES), has grown into one of the leading private institutes in the country for advanced studies in English literature. Along with it, the notes she kept writing to help out the students metamorphed into a contemporary encyclopedia on English literature. The first two of the seven-volume encyclopedia is all set to be released in the capital city this week.
Asked if the enormity of the task daunted her at any point, she says the idea dawned long after the notes and power point presentations grew into a humungous volume. “I was just collecting all important information required for an English literature postgraduate, and I was also developing my own interdisciplinary approach to teach it. It was then that I thought I should develop it into a valuable study resource,” she says.
A series of printed books were compiled first which were supplemented with audio and video recordings of her lectures on all the topics covered in the books. Multimedia presentations were added to this and soon, there was a body of work that could be used by students of literature anywhere in the world to assist them in their studies and research. “Then, I thought that my work needed to become accessible to each and every interested student in India and abroad, which led to the idea of the encyclopedia.”
Unlike a conventional encyclopedia, the seven-volume series takes a post-modern approach to the study of literature. Condensed and comprehensive notes on each topic is complemented with references to photos, paintings, tables, maps, Venn diagrams and references to it in popular culture and movies. “You could even find references to gossips, jokes and YouTube links,” she says.
This interdisciplinary approach is imperative to literature studies, says Kalyani. “Literature is not an isolated discipline. A study of literature involves the understanding and interpretation of a lot of ideas and practices in other humanities, like economics, political science, history, philosophy, psychology etc. English literature studies is in a way cultural studies. This is already the predominant approach of the present time, and I am bringing it into practice assertively through my work.”
As a means to further the concept, she is also launching a State-wide forum for English Literature professionals called E-ProF. The forum will provide academic enrichment and professional training to its members. “An English literature graduate can contribute meaningfully to many professional fields if suitably trained, like writing, editing, public speaking and teaching. I am exploring a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities for them. E-ProF will help them design their careers, and help them think out-of-the-box. E-ProF will focus not only on the communication potential of language, but also its cultural and intellectual potential,” she says.
She adds that globalisation has brought a huge change in the way a literature student can mould his or career. “From my own experience, I feel with the active support of an organisation like E-ProF, entrepreneurship can be made an easy and practical solution for many English literature graduates and postgraduates.”
E-prof will be formally launched in a meeting to be held at the Public Library Hall on August 21. The Contemporary Encyclopedia on British Literature will also be released at the event.