Joseph Mundassery (17 July 1903 – 25 October 1977) was a renowned literary critic and Indian politician from Kerala state. He was one among the towering literary critics in the Malayalam language and literature. In Kerala politics, he is famously remembered as the Education Minister who is the mastermind behind the drafting of the controversial Education Bill of the first EMS communist ministry of 1957.
Joseph Mundassery was born at Kandassankadavu, Thrissur. After his schooling from a local school he took his Bachelors degree in Physics and later the Masters degree in Sanskrit and Malayalam. Until 1952, he was the Head of the Department of Foreign Languages at St. Thomas College, Trichur.
Mundassery entered politics through the Kochi Prajamandalam and was elected as a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) of the princely state of Cochin in 1948 from the constituency of Aranattukara. Later on he became an MLC in the Travancore-Cochin Assembly in 1954, from Cherpu.
After the formation of the Kerala State in 1956, he won the Assembly election in 1957, from Manaloor, and went on to become Kerala’s first Education Minister (1957-‘59) in the EMS Communist ministry. And finally in 1970 he was elected as an MLA from Trichur constituency.
A doyen of letters and a cultural leader
As a prominent figure in the field of Malayalam literary criticism, Mundassery was one among the famous trio of Malayalam critics, the others being Kesari Balakrishna Pillai and M. P. Paul. The progressive literary movement of the 1940s owes it existence mostly to the works and efforts of Prof. Mundassery.
Through his controversial theory about Rooparbhadrata – formal excellence – Mundassery ushered in a new chapter of literary hermeneutics, which was unheard of in Malayalam until then. According to the theory the proclaimed aim of the author would inevitably lead to intentional fallacy, and that an author should be evaluated on more objective criteria like his role as a spokesman of his age.
He was the President of the Kerala Sahithya Parishad 1965-67, executive (and founding) member of the Kerala Sahithya Academy. He was also instrumental in establishing the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy and was a member of the Kendra Sahithya Academy.
As an educationalist
Prof. Joseph Mundassery’s fame as an educationalist rests partly to the reforms that he partially succeeded in bringing about in the educational sector in Kerala when he was the Education Minister. He is the author of the controversial Education Bill of the First communist ministry of Kerala. To a great extend the proposed bill directly led to the snowballing of the Vimochana Samaram and the subsequent downfall of the E.M.S. Namboodiripad's first communist ministry in 1958.
Even though the Education Bill failed to pass through the Assembly, many of its provisions were later implemented by subsequent governments albeit with amendments. As the Education Minister of the first democratically elected ministry of the newly formed State of Kerala, Mundassery was instrumental in the establishment and restructuring of some of the early universities and prime educational institutions of the state, having had experience as the Vice Chancellor of the Cochin University of Science and Technology.
Prof. Joseph Mundassery died in 1977 after a life of serving the Kerala State in its cultural, educational, and political spheres for about half a century.
Novels: Professor, Konthayil Ninnu Kurissilekku, Parappurathu Vithacha Vithu.
Literary Criticism: Kavyapeedhika, Manadandam, Mattoli, Manushyakathanugayikal, Vayanashalayil (3 parts), Rajarajante Mattoli, Natakantham Kavithwam Karinthiri, Kumaranasante Kavitha - Oru Padanam, Valltholinte Kavitha - Oru Padanam Roopabhadratha, Anthareeksham, Prayanam, Pashchathya Sahithya Sameeksha.
Short Stories: Sammanam, Kadaksham, Illapolice.
Travelogues: Ottanoottathil, China Munnottu.
Autobiography: Kozinga Elagal ( part I and part II ).
- Visvavijnanakosham, 1971 edition.