Entertaining literature enthralls us with suspense, humor and the intense action of an engaging plot. Superior literature transcends mere action. It presents to the reader the author's insights into human character and reveals the complex ways in which character and action interrelate to generate chains of consequences and results. Still finer literature reveals the complex interactions between action, individual character and the evolving character of the society in which the action takes place. The greatest literature goes still further. It reveals not only insights of individual and social character but of the character of life itself.
The process of social evolution effects changes in all aspects of human life, such as the relationship between the classes, attitudes toward wealth and work, marriage, the rights of women and minorities, the arts, literature, politics, etc. During the French Revolution, England’s ruling aristocracy was deeply concerned about the possible spread of revolutionary fever across the English Channel. As a result, England embarked on a period of rapid social evolution, in which different classes of society intermixed and intermarried, and the aristocracy opened the gates of privilege to the rising Middle Class. Jane Austen’s famous novel Pride & Prejudice, which was written during this period, reflects the evolutionary changes taking place in social attitudes and behavior. The Society is engaged in an in-depth study of the process of social development as expressed in the changes depicted in the novel. In 2008, MSS conducted six seminars in Pondicherry and various parts of Tamil Nadu, including a two-day seminar for executives of BHEL at Ranipet on August 6-7 and a two-day seminar for 60 people in Chennai at the end of August. A detailed study and text commentary on the book as well as a Tamil translation of the novel and the commentary are under preparation. In 2008-2009, MSS has contacted approximately 25,000 college lecturers and professors of English literature in the USA, Canada and UK to exchange views on this new approach to literary criticism. See www.prideandprejudice.info.
In the late 1970s, MSS conducted a study of five of Shakespeare’s most important works – Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, and As You Like It, and developed an original interpretation of these plays based on the supposition that the characters and actions portrayed reflect deeper truths of human character and the character of life. These studies were published in an Indian literary journal and sent to leading Shakespearean scholars in India, England and North America. Subsequently MSS held personal correspondence and discussions with several of scholars to explore responses to its approach.
Over the past decade, MSS has formulated an original approach to the understanding and evaluation of prose fiction based on knowledge of human personality, social development and the character of life. It has applied this approach to study novels by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Alexander Dumas, Herman Hesse, Victor Hugo, Margaret Mitchell, Anthony Trollope, Jules Verne.
In 2000, MSS began an in-depth study of Jane Austen’s novel, Pride & Prejudice, to examine the process of social development as well the reflections of fundamental truths of life and human character depicted in the novel. The study brings out through the narrative the process of social evolution that occurred in England during the Napoleanic era in contrast to the violent social revolution taking place across the English Channel. It also examines the power of personal attitudes and decisions to determine life events and their outcomes. Two seminars were conducted in Madras and Pondicherry to discuss the findings of the study. In 2007 MSS launched what has become the world’s most in-depth and comprehensive website on Pride & Prejudice including a detailed analysis of the characters and significant events as well as a detailed line commentary on the text. See www.prideandprejudice.info.
In addition in recent years MSS has applied the same approach to critically review more than twenty contemporary motion pictures.