5th DEH Inter-University Student Conference and Cultural Competition

Battle of the Talents at the 5th DEH Inter-University Student Conference and Cultural Competition: The Romantic and the Gothic

Fairoz Anika, Umme Hani Anika


The 18th  and 19th of April 2019 marked the auspicious day when students from different universities showcased their brilliance through academic presentations and cultural performances in the wide greeneries of the Permanent Campus at ULAB through one of the most anticipating Inter-University Student Conference and Cultural Competition titled ‘The Romantic and the Gothic.’ This event was organized by the Department of English and Humanities (DEH) and the Associate Professor of DEH, Dr. Sohana Manzoor was the Convener of this event. The opening ceremony started with the speech from the Head of DEH and Pro-Vice Chancellor of ULAB, Professor Dr. Shamsad Mortuza.

The participants showed off their knowledge on the theme of ‘Romantic and Gothic’ through their astounding presentations where they emphasized the connection between romantic and gothic through diverse mediums of literature, such as interpreting various literary texts and works of the Romantic poets, bringing out various references of popular culture to delve deeper into the minds of famous literary characters, implementing different literary theories to analyze modern issues, etc. Their insightful discussions enlightened the audience and created good impressions on the judges. About 15 universities from both public and private universities participated in this event, such as BRAC University, Jahangirnagar University, Independent University of Bangladesh, Southeast University, Bangladesh University of Professionals, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, and more.

Dr. Chidananda Bhattacharya, Professor, and Head of Rabindra Bharati University and Professor Abdus Selim, Chairperson of the Department of Language-Literature from the Central Women’s University were the judges for the academic session of this event. In both the academic presentations and cultural competitions participants from ULAB became the champion for the first time, thus creating a glorifying moment for the Department of English and Humanities.

The paper that won the first prize in the academic session was from a student of ULAB (University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh), Shamael Mortuza, whose paper titled ‘The Fault in Coleridge’s Stars: A Contrapuntal Reading’ analyzed S.T. Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as a colonial text. She emphasized on the symbols such as the ‘horned Moon’ with a single star at its ‘nether tip’ being a representation of the crescent moon in Islam or other pre-pagan Christian myths which the poet uses to refer to bad omen in the poem foreshadowing the deaths of 200 men. She also argued that the star was planet Venus hence, Coleridge wrongly portrayed a planet as a star as far as astronomical observations were concerned. The presenter pointed out that Coleridge’s symbolization of the full moon akin to Christian mercy became corrupt as soon as the poet juxtaposed the crescent moon as a symbol of Islam, thus denunciating Islam and revealed that the poet was no different from the majority of the Western world at the time of British colonization, who glorified their religion and their race. Her paper provided an insight into how colonialism affected literature and the views of great poets like S.T. Coleridge, who saw the others as both sinister and menacing.

The paper titled, ‘The Darkling: A Depiction of the Byronic Hero as an Anti-villain’ presented by Mairuna Farhin a student from BRAC University won the second prize at the competition. In her paper, she focused on the character of Darkling, who is an antagonist from the Grisha Trilogy through portraying the character as a contemporary depiction of the Byronic Hero because the character deconstructs the stereotypical concept of villains through showcasing the modern-day phenomenon of Anti-Villain. According to the traditional concepts, heroes are generally seen as the symbol of righteousness whereas the villains are often being portrayed as vile, vicious and evil. But, the concept of anti-hero and anti-villain blurs the line between typical heroes and villains because neither of them supports the traditional notions about heroes and villains, rather they overlap with each other. The concept of Byronic Hero, created by Lord Byron shatters all the previous perceptions about the stereotypical heroes and introduces a new form of the hero who portrays both the good and dark traits emphasizing the duality in human beings. The character of Darkling also represents the complex psyche of the human mind. He used to torment people to end their misery and his inner self was also tormented inside due to inheriting extreme powers which set him apart from the nature of classical villains. On the other hand, the Byronic Hero embodies traits which are considered as unheroic, such as being emotionally tormented due to troubled past; being cynical, mysterious, gloomy and arrogant; being rebellious and anti-social, etc which also deviates from the conventional perspectives about heroes. Thus, the presenter successfully presented the character of Darkling as a depiction of the Byronic hero.

Other presenters also showed unique presentations on the theme of ‘Romantic and Gothic.’ Two participants from Bangladesh University of Professionals named Rifa Tasnia and Fauzia Farzan Mirza emphasized the dual nature of the sublime through portraying nature as a savior for the freedom of isolated mind in their paper titled, ‘The Dual Strain of the Sublime and the Supernatural in Glendy Vanderah’s Where the Forest meets the Stars. After encountering with a supernatural being named Ursa, the characters named Joanna and Gabriella were gradually able to heal their souls through nature which was trapped due to the impact of the mechanical urban life. Therefore, this paper showcased the dual quality of sublime combining it with the phenomena of supernatural for emphasizing the awe-inspiring quality of nature.

Another participant, Sarazeen Saif Ahana from Independent University Bangladesh presented how William Blake portrayed the Ethereal World through his various works which gave glimpses of the paradise in her paper titled, ‘His Ethereal World: William Blake’s Glimpses of Paradise.’ The next presenter Anika Tabassum from Jahangirnagar University interpreted two famous odes of Keats named, ‘Ode to Psyche’ and ‘Ode to Nightingale’ through the perspective of the Kantian aesthetic notion in her paper titled, ‘The Beauty of Psyche and the Song of Nightingale: A Kantian Aesthetic Reading of Keats.’

Further into the session, Sumaiya Sharaf Bidisha from Southeast University discussed in her paper titled ‘Imagination, Drugs and A State of Liminality: A Study of Freudian Theory of “Id, Ego and Superego” on Romantic Writers’ about how the psychological state of mind of the Romantic poets, who wanted to escape from the real world and wanted to trap themselves in their imaginary world, was being affected due to consumption of drugs through the Freudian Theory of Id, Ego, and Superego. The academic session came to an end with the last presentation from Syed Tauheed Raihan, a student of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, with his paper titled ‘Modernists as Disillusioned Romantics’ which focused on the difference in views towards life that the Romantics like Wordsworth had, compared to the modernists who were in despair after World War I and depicted that in their works. However, he argued that some modernists were like ‘disillusioned Romantics’ since they also took inspirations from nature like the Romantics but due to their interpretations of the natural elements they were deemed different.

The second day of the event consisted of cultural presentations from five different universities which included East-West University, Jahangirnagar University, Southeast University, University of Asia Pacific and University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. The performers exhibited their understanding of the theme ‘The Romantic and the Gothic’ through acting, poetry, and various other dramatic performances. University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh achieved the first place and the University of Asia Pacific acquired the second place in the cultural segment. The judges for this segment were Dr. Chidananda Bhattacharya, Professor, and Head of Rabindra Bharati University; Dr. Kirsten Hackenbroch, Director of Goethe-Institute Bangladesh; and Ziaul Karim, Head of Brand and Communication of Eastern Bank Ltd.

The team from ULAB comprising of members named Abdul Munim Khan Chowdhury, Shahneela Tazrin, Sheikh Tasmima Mrinnmoi, Tasnim Hasan and Vincent Dip Gomes were the stars of the cultural competition with their play entitled ‘A Failed Student at Cambridge’. The play depicted the struggles of the student life of the famous Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, reasons behind his recruitment and discharge from the military, and his interest in India. The play was supervised by the visiting scholar, writer of India and Romantic Imagination (1987), John Drew. While the team from University of Asia Pacific placed second with their play titled ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ based on the poem by John Keats of the same name. The play questioned the conventions of society which supports the outward beauty of a woman more than her inner beauty, and that instilling these false beliefs in young women could lead to depression and ultimately death.

Mr. Liaquat Ali Lucky, Director General of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, was the Chief Guest at the Closing Ceremony. Stressing on the saying “A nation is known by its theaters,” he welcomed the students to stage their plays in the academy and promised his full support towards the students. He also expressed his interest to showcase some of his plays in the ULAB stage.

Soon after, the winners were announced. The winner of the academic session was awarded BDT 10,000 and runner-up was awarded BDT 8,000. The winning team of the cultural competition was awarded BDT 15,000 and the runner-up team was awarded BDT 10,000. Professor Jahirul Haque, ULAB Vice Chancellor; Professor Imran Rahman, Special Adviser to the ULAB Board of Trustees; Professor Kaiser Haq, Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, and Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam along with the honorable judges were present on stage during the prize-giving ceremony.

The event ended with a vote of thanks from the Pro-Vice Chancellor of ULAB and Head of the Department of English and Humanities, Professor Shamsad Mortuza. Thus, this event marked an unforgettable and memorable experience for the students of DEH who became champions in both the academic and cultural segments through the brilliant presentation and spellbinding performance.

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