For poet, fictionist, literary critic, and anthologist Gemino H. Abad, the literary work is literary because it is both work of language and work of imagination: it isn’t so much written in a given historical language as wrought from it. For the writer, language isn’t a given, it is forged: rewoven, reinvented, made anew. The meanings of our words arise not so much from their differential play as from lives lived through a people’s history and culture. The writer works the language so as to endow a perceived reality with a form by which it is apprehended. That perceived reality is of course a human experience which basically is the subject of a literary work. That experience is mimed or simulated in the poem, story, play, or the personal essay.As to literary “criticism,” the word comes from Greek krinein, “to divide (or discriminate) and to judge,” from which the English words, “crisis” and “critical,” are derived. Thus, a time of crisis is a time of division and judgment, and to criticize is to bring matters to a head, to a point of crisis. “Theory” is also from Greek theorein, “to view, inspect, consider”; any theory then is only a way of seeing, of making sense. Even in science, any way of looking has its limits and, as to its currency, a certain life-span. No theory has monopoly of seeing. For any literary work, whatever its paksa (Tagalog: topic, subject, theme), there are only three general criteria: in Tagalog, saysay (significance, insight, revelation) dating (or effect, Greek dynamis: power to persuade and to move), and diwa (core substance or spirit, vision, meaningfulness). General criteria, for they vary in their appreciation and application, from reader to reader, because every reader or critic draws from his own experience of reality, from his own preferred “theory” or “way of looking,” from his current advocacy, be that Marxist or feminist; and, whether consciously or not, every reader or critic also draws from his community’s history and culture, their world view, values, beliefs, and biases.
Gemino H. Abad is University Professor emeritus of literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines. In 2009 he received Italy’s Premio Feronia for his poetry translated into Italian by Gëzim Hajdari and Amoà Fatuiva under the title, Dove le parole non si spezzano (Where No Words Break).
He has to date thirty books to his name. Care of Light (2010) is his eighth poetry collection, and Imagination’s Way (2010), his eighth collection of critical essays; he also has two collections of short stories, Orion’s Belt (1996) and A Makeshift Sun (2001). He is known also for his three-volume historical anthology of Filipino poetry in English: Man of Earth (co-ed., Edna Zapanta Manlapaz; 1989), A Native Clearing (sole editor, 1993), and A Habit of Shores (sole editor, 1999). He has recently finished his six-volume anthology of Philippine short stories in English over the period 1956 to 2008: the first two-volume set is called Upon Our Own Ground (2008); the second set, Underground Spirit (2010); and the third, Hoard of Thunder (2012). Dr. Abad obtained his Ph.D. in English at the University of Chicago in 1970, and continues to teach at UP where he has served as Secretary of the University, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and Director of the U.P. Creative Writing Center (now an Institute).
The lecture is introduced by Ronelaine Picardal. For more information, please contact Moses Joshua Atega, Ronelaine Picardal, and Hellene Piñero. Prof. Philip Van Peel moderates.
This is part of a series of literary events of the 53rd Silliman University National Writers Workshop, and is open for free to the public.