School of Letters
School of Letters is the interdisciplinary Department of Literature and Fine arts of Mahatma Gandhi University. It was established in 1988 with Prof. G. Sankara Pillai, the doyen of drama and theatre in Kerala, as the first director. School of Letters had some of the best literary minds to guide it in the formative years. These include, Prof. U. R. Anantha Murthy, Jnanapith Awardee and the second Vice Chancellor of the University, who was also the driving force behind the establishment of many of the innovative teaching schools of the University. Others who gave him support with their vision and scholarship included Prof. K. Ayyappa Paniker, poet and academic, and Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan, noted poet. Prof. M. Gangadharan, historian and literary critic, working on a project was also initially associated with School of Letters.
In the initial years, School of Letters was housed in Hassan Manzil, a rented building. The old timers have sweet memories of the days in Hassan Manzil, which itself was a piece of marvellous architecture, set in picturesque surroundings. In 1998, School of Letters moved to its own building on the campus in Priyadarsini Hills. This too is a piece of marvellous architecture, blending the tradition of Kerala and modern taste.
The tenure of Prof. G. Sankara Pillai, the first Director was cut short by death, which took him away from our midst on the first January 1989. Every year, the day is observed as Founder’s Day, marked by a memorial lecture and a play performed in his memory. Prof.Narendra Prasad, renowned critic, playwright, director and actor succeeded him as the Director in 1989 and continued in the position until untimely death took him away. A memorial lecture has been instituted in his honour. Both these events have brought a large number of luminaries of national and international reputation to School of Letters. This includes Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Prof. G. Kumara Pillai, Abu Abraham, Ponkunnam Varkey Sarah Joseph, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Actor Murali and Prof. B. N. Patnaik. Memorial Lectures in honour of Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Shri Aurobindo organised by School of Letters in the past had featured eminent personalities like V. P. Singh, Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer and Ayyappa Paniker.
Vaikom Muhammad Basheer Chair was instituted in memory of the renowned fictionist of Kerala in 1994. This is an ongoing programme whereby a senior academic or writer or scholar of repute is invited to direct activities related to fiction studies and translation works. The Chair has been held by eminent scholars, well known among academics for the work they have done in their respective fields: Linguist Prof. R. E. Asher from Edinburgh University UK, Jayanta Mahapatra, poet and translator from Cuttack and Prof. Susie Tharu,academic and activist from Hyderabad.