Reader Surpassing Theory

(Prof Niamat Ali Murtazai, )

According to this theory of mine : A reader starts appreciating a piece of writing only when he is surpassed by the writer or he thinks that the writer surpasses other writers; otherwise the piece of writing fails to arouse the cherished feelings of liking and applauding in a reader or a critic.
The theory is based on simple human psychological behavior of comparison and contrast that a person is ever making with himself or of others with others. We are poor if the others are better than us and we are rich if the others are worse than us.Or sometimes we make comparison of other rich and poor people with other rich or poor people and reach some conclusion. We can walk on foot easily and we don’t clap for people walking on foot because we think that walking on foot is an easy task not worthy of clapping or applauding. While a person walking on a tight rope snatches clapping from our hands and cheers of well done form our lips because we cannot perform this miraculous feat. Similarly in literature , we start appreciating a dramatist when we find that he has written a wonderful play that we cannot compose or he is better than other dramatists; we appreciate a poet when we come to know that he has composed a very beautiful piece of poesy that we are at a loss to compose or he has composed better than others do, and so on.
For the elaboration of my point of view, I have taken some great writers of the world and have tried to prove that they surpass a lot of readers and most of the writers of the world and thus claim a high repute and status all over the world. It may also be kept in mind that in this discussion, a reader stands for a critic too. In other words , it can also be called a critic surpassing theory.
A great writer surpasses his readers, critics or other writers in many ways. We take some prominent aspects of comparison and contrast to support our theory. But these aspects given below are not the only finite ones for this purpose. Every reader or critic can have any criterion for this purpose.
A writer may surpass his reader or critic or other writers in the following aspects:
a) He may surpass in the collection of material
b) He may surpass in the composition of his idea/thought
c) He may surpass in the manner of pleasing
d) He may surpass in depth of a thought.
In what ever way a writer surpasses his reader, surpassing remains a necessity of matery to be appreciated by his reader , audience or listener, etc.
Now we try to prove our theory with the help of material composed and presented by great writers of English literature though some writers will also be included in it.
Our major English writers are Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift,
a) He may surpass in the collection of material
Collection of subject matter to be presented in a writing is an uphill task and needs a long and assiduous struggle. A lot of readers and other writers too are surpassed in this way. When they are surpassed ,they accept the writer a great one.
Chaucer stands as a unique writer in English literature because he, in ‘The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales’ beats his reader through the collection of his material from almost all nooks and corners of his society. He composes kaleidoscopic view of his society that is no doubt no easy for most of the writers and all the common readers.
Milton, in Paradise Lost, collects data from not only Bible and Old Testament but also Hellenism, Roman mythology, world geography, history, astronomy, astrology, etc. Such a vast collection of data baffles a reader very easily and other writers and critics too.
Francis Bacon in his essays collects his data from everyday experience, history, religion, etc. and beats his reader with a terse network of Latin epigrams and other references.
William Shakespeare in his plays like Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Macbeth, Tempest ,etc, collects his data from almost all over the world. His characters represent almost all human beings of the world. His plays open before us the social and historical background of the world especially Europe that is almost impossible for any other reader to do and the writer to surpass.
Waris Shah, a legendary Sufi poet of Punjabi, collected data for his marvelous composition ‘Heer Waris Shah’ from the whole of the Punjab, Islam, the Holy Quran, the Hadis, history, sociology, etc. He describes a vast variety of things and people of the Punjab, etc. with references to Quranic verses and ahadis, proverbs, sayings, etc that his readers, critics and other poets are forced to appreciate him because they can never do so themselves.
Ghalib, a great Urdu and Persian poet, takes his diction from Urdu, Persian, Arabic for his poetry that makes others accept him a great poet.
Iqbal, the great poet of Urdu and Persian, takes major part of his diction from Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages and his ideas from Europe, the Sub-continent, Arab countries, Islamic history, Quran and Hadis ,etc. Such a huge collection of material makes almost all readers , critics and other poets appreciate his poetry.
The researchers and scholars who get degrees like doctorate and post-graduate or write great books collect data from hundreds of books, periodicals, their experience, journeys, etc., which baffles others and from this their appreciation and superiority ensue
b) He may surpass in composing his idea and material

An artist really surpasses a reader in composing his idea or material. A reader may have a greater collection or store of material than that of the writer but he lacks in arranging it into a praiseworthy piece of writing. No doubt there are very great scholars in every language in every part of the world, but a great writer has a specific skill of arranging his imagination into a poem, play, novel or story that lies beyond the scope of the reader.
The society painted by Chaucer in ‘The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales’ was already before the very eyes of the readers and critics, but the presentation through words and expressions given by Chaucer requires an artistic skill that is where a reader or a critic is forced to appreciate the artist. About the Wife of Bath’s character , he very dexterously remarks:
She was a worthy woman all her life
Husbands at church door she had five. (Wife of Bath )
Shakespeare’s presentation needs no introduction; he was a great master artist of presentation of every type and situation. From Hamlet, we take an extract to show his prowess
Queen: O Hamlet, speak no more
Thou turn’st my eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct. ( Act 3, Scene 4, Line 88-91)
The Fool in King Lear is very wise who advises King Lear:
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest;
Leave thy drink and thy whore,
And keep in-a-door,
And thou shalt have more
Than two tens to a score (Act 1, scene 4, Lines115-125)
Alexander Pope, in The Rape of the Lock, very skillfully describes his ideas:
Sudden he viewed, in spite of all her art,
An earthly lover lurking at her heart. (Lines: 433. 434)
Bacon in his essay very expertly composes his mind; in his essay ‘Of Studies’ he composes a very beautiful idea:
Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. (Of Stidies)

Ghalib’s imagination claims his greatness as an artist:

رہیئے اب ایسی جگہ چل کر جہاں کوئی نہ ہو
اپنا ، پرایا، مہرباں، نا مہرباں کوئی نہ ہو

Iqbal’s imagination and presentation is also marvelous:
پانی کو چھو رہی ہو جھک جھک کے گل کی ٹہنی
جیسے حسین کوئی آئینہ دیکھتا ہو
Hazrat Baba Bullaey Shah(RA) has his own uniqueness:
علم نہ آ وے وچ شمار
جاندی عمر نئیں اعتبار
اکو الف ترے درکار
علموں بس کریں او یار
Waris Shah is unique in his composition:
کھِلے تنہاں دے باغ قلوب اندر جنہاں کیتا ہے عشق قبول میاں
وارثؔ عاشقاں تے کرم رب دا اے جنہاں کیتا ہےعشق حصول میاں
C He may surpass in the manner of pleasing
An artist forces a critic to appreciate him through different manners of pleasing ; a writer may please his reader through tragedy, comedy, epic, novel, poetry, dialogue, diction, etc. different people are affected through different ways or manners. Some people appreciate a writer for his idea, some for his diction and some for his genre. All people are not affect through all or a single way. Some people do not like poetry but prose .Some artist have the ability to please their readers through various ways. As Ghalib pleases his readers through poetry as well as prose. The point is that an artist must be appreciated by his reader or listener or viewer in some way or the other. Some artists a great dramatist but not poets at all but they succeed in pleasing their reader in one way. Then in one way there are also other ways. As in playwriting, diction, plot, characterization, etc all are different ways of pleasing readers and viewers. Chaucer pleases his reader through humour, irony, simplicity, external as well as inner description, etc. Shakespeare pleases through plot, character, diction, thoughts, etc.
Pope pleases through heroic couplet, machinery, ridicule, etc. Bacon pleases through thought brevity, crispness of thought as well as sentence.
d He may surpass in depth of a thought
No writer can ever be great without deep thoughts. Thought is the soul of a literary body. Without thought no piece of writing can ever be called a master piece. All masterpieces of literature are replete with great thoughts. All writings have thoughts in them but some writings provoke thought in the readers too, such writings become praiseworthy with the passage of time. Hamlet by Shakespeare is replete with deep thoughts ,
Laertes. …………………………….
: best safety lies in fear.
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near. (Act 1, Sc 3,Lines: 43,44)
‘King Lear’ again and again knocks at the door of dormant minds and awakens them to bitter reality.
Lear. But where the greater malady is fix’d
The lesser is scarce felt. (Act3, Sc 4, Lines: 8,9)
’The Rape of the Lock’ also invites our thought to new horizons and we appreciate the writer for awakening our thought.
But when to mischief mortals bend their will
How soon they find fit instruments of ill. (Lines : 415, 416)
Bacon’s essays are the incarnation of deep thought.
1-Revenge is a kind of wild justice. (Of Revenge)
2-Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. (Of Studies)
Ghalib, Iqbal, Waris Shah, Bullehy Shah, Mian Muhammad Bakhash, etc all are great because they create thoughts in our minds through their own deep thoughts. We cannot help appreciating the writers who stir our thoughts and such writers win laurels from readers as well as critics.
نہ کر بندیا میری میری ، نہ تیری نہ میری
چار دناں دا میلہ دنیا فیر مٹی دی ڈھیری ( بلہے شاہؒ)

شاندار نوں کرے نہ کوئی جھوٹا کنگال جھوٹا کر ڈال دے نی
وارث شاہ لتاڑی دے پئے ماڑے مارے خوف دے موہوں نہ بول دے نی ( (وارث ؔشاہ ؒ)

مر مر اک بناون شیشہ، مار وٹہ اک بھن دے
دنیا اتے تھوڑے بندے قدر شناس سخن دے ( ( میاں محمد بخشؔؒ)
عمر ہر چند کہ ہے برقِ خرام
دل کے خوں کرنے کی فرصت ہی سہی ( (غالبؔ)

کرمکِ ناداں ! طوافِ شمع سے اآزاد ہو
اپنی فطرت کے تجلی زار میں آ زاد ہو ( (اقبالؔ)
The article has been discussed with respect to writing and reading only but the same criterion applies to other arts like music, painting, acting. etc. in singing a singer is appreciated by listener only when he himself fails to sing as beautifully as the singer has sung or he thinks that other singers cannot sing as beautifully as some particular singer has sung.. In painting a viewer does the same with respect to color , contrast etc.
In short, a reader, a listener, a viewer or a critic appreciates an artist only when he is surpassed by the artist in his master piece. Without surpassing a critic , no appreciation can be gained by an artist. Or appreciation can be won only by surpassing or beating a critic. Every reader, listener, viewer is also a critic and he appreciates some art only when he finds it impossible to create that art himself. A critic can be surpassed in various ways as some have been described and discussed above. The theory can also be called ‘Critic Surpassing Theory’ or merely ‘The Surpassing Theory.’

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