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ENG 215 1

Introduction to South Asian Literature

Professor Mary Anne Mohanraj English 215

Fall 2005 Class: T/TH 3:30-4:45 AUD 658
My Office: AUD 739 Phone: 312-399-2896 (c)
Office hours: T 2:30 - 3:30; TH 5:00-6:00 and by appt.

Course Description

This historical overview of South Asian literature begins with the great epics, The Mahabharata
and The Ramayana, tales of gods and princes, battle and exile; then follow stories from the
colonizers, from The Jungle Book to A Passage to India to The Jewel in the Crown. Then we'll
dive into award-winning authors like Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Hanif Kurieshi and
Jhumpa Lahiri, who brought native literature onto the world stage. Finally we'll finish with
selections from some of the most exciting cutting-edge diasporic authors of the current day.
Framed within a post-colonialist context and with a strong awareness of gender politics, students
will explore the shifting development of an ethnic literature influenced by colonialism, but not
defined by it.

Note: This course fulfills the Non-Western Culture requirement.

Required Texts

E.M. Forster. A Passage to India

Hanif Kurieshi. The Buddha of Suburbia
V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Shyam Selvadurai, ed. Storywallah

Mary Anne Mohanraj. Bodies in Motion (recommended, not required)

Course Requirements

Oral work:
--Class participation (10%): For this seminar to be successful, everyone should come prepared
with questions and comments from your reading, assignments you’re ready to discuss, and/or
speculations about how specific readings relate to others we’ve studied. You will be evaluated on
your participation in discussion and small group work. Thoughtful, focused, and consistent
participation, along with demonstration of preparation for class (i.e., that you’ve read and
thought carefully about the readings), and respect for others’ viewpoints will determine your
grade. Be sure to bring your book, notes, and all assignments to class.

Attendance: Much of the learning in this course occurs during class sessions, so it’s important
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that you be here. You may have two absences without penalty during the semester. Use them
when and as you wish (no excuses or doctor’s notes necessary). More than two absences will
lower your participation and final grades. More than six absences will result in failure. If you are
not coming to class on the day an assignment is due, the assignment is still due at the beginning
of class. If you are absent, you are responsible for contacting me or a classmate for assignments,
syllabus updates, and/or handouts. Consistent tardiness will count as at least one absence.

Written work:
• Two essays (worth 15% each for a total of 30%): Everyone will write two 4-5 page essays.
We will discuss these assignments and workshop drafts in class.

• Two exams (worth 20% each for a total of 40%): These in-class exams ask you to
demonstrate your knowledge of and ability to analyze the course material. Each one will include
identification, short answer, and an essay question. The first exam will cover material from the
first half of the course, and the second exam will cover material from the second half of the

• Reading journal (worth 20% total): Throughout the semester, I will provide study questions
for reading assignments, and you will respond to these questions in a series of journal responses,
each of which should be at least 500 words. Please bring to class two copies of your journal
entries. I will collect one at the beginning of class, and you should keep one in your files. At the
end of the semester, you will resubmit all of your responses, along with a self-assessment you
write about your journal work, and I will assess the thoughtfulness and attentiveness of the
series. You are assigned eight journal entries total; you may skip one journal entry without
penalty, or if you elect not to skip, I will drop the weakest entry when I am figuring your grade.
Because journal entries are meant to focus your reading responses before our class discussion, no
late journals will be accepted: no exceptions. If you need to miss a class; be sure to e-mail your
journal to me (as an attached Word file) so that it arrives before the start of class. I will pass out
the journal entry asisgnments for each unit before that unit begins.

• In-class writing (part of participation grade): Because this is a writing class, we will spend
some class time writing. Assignments will range from brainstorming, group work, and drafting to
peer editing and reflections.

NOTE: No late assignments (any assignment not finished at the beginning of class on the
due date) will be accepted. I will grant an extension in certain cases, but not at the end of
the semester. An extension must be requested at least one week in advance of the stated due
date. Unless you have an extension or there is an emergency, any work not turned in on
time will earn a grade of zero.

Office hours: Take advantage of my office hours. Use them to clarify class discussion, go over
assignments, or discuss your ideas. In addition to my scheduled hours, I can often be available by
appointment if arranged at least one week ahead of time.
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Plagiarism: Plagiarism, intentional or unintentional, is a serious offense that will earn an F in

this course. Every time you include in your own writing an idea or language that you borrow
from another writer, you must provide documentation. Otherwise, it’s plagiarism. We will go
over how to use be MLA style for your essays—documenting summaries, paraphrases, and/or
quotations with a parenthetical citation for each one and providing a Works Cited page at the
end. If in doubt, give a reference.

Class Schedule
UNIT I: Ancient Days

Week 1 9/7 Introductions; course overview; excerpts from Ramayana, in-class writing

Week 2 9/12 Excerpts from Ramayana, Mahabharata (handout)

9/14 Folk and fairy tales (handout)
Journal due

UNIT II: The Colonials

Week 3 9/19 Rudyard Kipling, "The Man Who Would Be King"

Kipling, "On the City Wall"
Kipling, The Jungle Book and/or Just So Stories (browse books, reading
or so pages of each)
Rushdie, “Kipling” (handout)
Kipling, Kim (optional)
9/21 E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, pgs 1-??
In class: discussion of essay assignment #1
Journal due

Week 4 9/26 E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, pgs ??-??

In-class: watch excerpt from film, A Passage to India
9/28 Edward Said, Orientalism (excerpts, handout)
Paul Scott, The Jewel in the Crown (optional)

Week 5 10/3 In-class workshop on essay #1

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10/5 Draft of essay #1 due; in-class peer critique

UNIT III: Not Commonwealth Writers

Week 6 10/10 Essay #1 due at the beginning of class

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas, pgs ??
Salman Rushdie, "'Commonwealth Literature' Does Not Exist"

10/12 Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas, pgs ??

Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India (optional)
Journal due

Week 7 10/17 Anita Desai, "Winterscape," Storywallah

Zulfikar Ghose, "The Marble Dome," Storywallah

10/19 Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things, pgs 1-89

In class: preparation for Exam #1

Week 8 10/24 Exam #1

10/25 Roy, The God of Small Things, pgs 90-204

Baldwin, What the Body Remembers (optional)

Week 9 10/31 Roy, The God of Small Things, pgs 205-321

11/2 Michael Ondaatje, "The Passions of Lalla," Storywallah
Bharati Mukherjee, "The Management of Grief," Storywallah
Salman Rushdie, "The Courter," Storywallah
Journal due

Week 10 11/7 Rushdie, "Imaginary Homelands" (handout)

Rushdie, "In Good Faith," (handout, optional)
Kurieshi, The Buddha of Suburbia, pgs. 1-143
11/9 Kurieshi, The Buddha of Suburbia, pgs. 144-284
Amitav Ghosh, The Glass Palace (optional)

UNIT IV: The Next Generation of Diaspora

Week 11 11/14 Kamani, "Just Between Indians," Storywallah

Dawesar, Babyji (excerpt, handout)
Roy, "Auld Lang Syne," Storywallah
Mohanraj, "Seven Cups of Water," Bodies in Motion (optional)
Mohanraj, "The Princess in the Forest," Bodies in Motion (optional)
Romesh Gunesekera, Reef (optional)
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11/16 Monica Ali, "Dinner with Dr. Azad," Storywallah

Jhumpa Lahiri, "This Blessed House," Storywalla
Mohanraj, "Tightness in the Chest," Bodies in Motion (handout)
Mohanraj, "Bodies in Motion," Bodies in Motion (optional)
Mohanraj, "Monsoon Day," Bodies in Motion (optional)
Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (optional)
Journal due

Week 12 11/21 TBA

11/23 No class -- Thanksgiving

UNIT V: Back Home

Week 13 11/28 Discussion of current writing in South Asia, aka,

"What we haven't come close to covering…"
Journal due
11/30 Finish discussion of literature
In class: discussion of essay assignment #2

Week 14 12/5 In class: preparation for Exam #2

12/7 Exam #2

Week 15 12/12 In class: draft of essay #2 due; peer critique

12/14 Essay #2 due; wrap up