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English 3663 X1

South Asian Literature


Course Description

As the success of Booker Prize winning authors like Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, and Aravind Adiga suggests, South Asia is today one of the world's most vibrant areas of literary and cultural production. This course will give Acadia students the opportunity to study the masterful fiction of South Asia with a specific focus on India. We will explore fairly recent developments in the Indian literary tradition, paying particular attention to the history of colonialism and independence, and tracing the developments in narrative form to the rise of Indian nationalism. We will also consider issues of agency, sectarianism, caste, gender, and globalization.

All classes will be structured around close readings, discussions, and presentations. Several classes will involve group work. Participation in class discussions and presentations is mandatory and has been assigned a modest mark. Because of the collaborative nature of this class, attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than three classes without a doctor's note will see their participation grades drop severely.

Students with disabilities that affect learning:
If you are a student with a documented disability who anticipates needing accommodations in this course, please inform me after you meet with Jill Davies or Kathy O'Rourke in Disability Access Services, in the Student Resource Centre, lower floor of the Old SUB (Old Student Union Building).

Their contact information is jill.davies@acadiau.ca 585-1127 or disability.access@acadiau.ca 585-1823.

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  • Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
  • Rohinton Mistry, Tales from Firozsha Baag
  • R. K. Narayan, The Man-eater of Malgudi
  • Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
  • Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
  • Khushwant Singh, Train to Pakistan
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Mark Distribution

Option 1

Research Paper
Final Exam

Option 2

Essay 1
Essay 2
Final Exam
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Weekly Outline

Week 1

Sept. 8: Course Introduction

Week 2

Sept. 13: Introduction to Postcolonial Studies

Sept. 15: An Introduction to India

Week 3

Sept. 20: Narayan's The Man-eater of Malgudi

Sept. 22 :The Man-eater of Malgudi

Week 4

Sept. 27: The Man-eater of Malgudi

Sept. 29:Singh's Train to Pakistan

Week 5

Oct. 4: Train to Pakistan

Oct. 6: Train to Pakistan

Week 6

Oct. 11: Rushdie's Midnight's Children; Essay 1, First Due Date

Oct.13: Midnight's Children

Week 7

Oct. 18: Midnight's Children

Oct. 20: Midnight's Children

Week 8

Oct. 25: Midnight's Children; Essay 1, Final Due Date

Oct. 27:Mistry's Tales from Firozsha Baag: "Auspicious Occasion" and "The Collectors"

Week 9

Nov. 1:"Exercisers" and "Squatter"

Nov. 3: "Lend Me Your Light" and "Swimming Lessons"

Week 10

Nov. 8:Roy's The God of Small Things

Nov. 10:The God of Small Things

Week 11

Nov. 15: The God of Small Things

Nov. 17:The God of Small Things; Essay 2/Research Paper, First Due Date

Week 12

Nov. 22:Adiga's The White Tiger

Nov. 24: The White Tiger

Week 13

Nov. 29: The White Tiger

Dec. 1: Final Exam discussion; Essay 2/Research Paper, Final Due Date

Final exam

To be announced
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Assignment Policies

You will have the option of writing one long (10-12 page, 3000-3500 words) or two short (5-6 page, 1500-1750 words) papers for this class.  By the second week of class, you will have to indicate your preference.   In both cases, choose your topics from the complete list below.  Note that the longer paper must be a research paper.  I will consider allowing you to devise your own topic, but you must consult me and receive approval before proceeding.

I like to give upper year students the opportunity to submit essays without penalty during a two week period.  Therefore, I give two due dates for each essay.  I will put comments on papers submitted by the first due date.  Papers submitted after the first due date will be returned with grades, but without comments. I will, however, be available for interviews to talk about the papers. Papers will not be accepted after the final due date unless accompanied by a doctor's letter.   There will be no rewriting or reweighting of assignments.  Contracts are binding.

Students are required to read pages from the Acadia University Calendar regarding academic integrity and the discipline.

I also highly recommend that you check out the following the following:

And by all means, drop by to see me during my office hours if you need clarification on any point of concern. 


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Essay Topics

Write two short essays (5-6 page, 1500-1750 words) or one long research paper (10-12 page, 3000-3500 words) on any of the following topics.

  1. Discuss the role of Vasu in Narayan's The Man-eater of Malgudi. While the text clearly equates him with a monster through its mythical framework, it also shows his potential to break down traditional boundaries that are used to maintain a problematic status quo. How does the novel reconcile these two very different perspectives on Vasu?
  2. The original title of Singh's Train to Pakistan was Mano Majra. While discussing the merits of both titles in the context of the historical events the book describes, decide why one is more effective than the other.
  3. Padma plays an essential role in Midnight's Children as Saleem Sinai's primary audience. While he attempts to demonstrate his central role in contemporary Indian history to establish his legitimacy as the voice of the new nation, she reacts to his story. Discuss how Padma fits into Saleem's narrative quest.
  4. Mistry's Tales from Firozsha Baag, like the novels that followed it, is notable for its representations of bodily functions. The author has faced some pointed criticism from within the Parsi community and from outside of it for these representations. Many Parsis feel that he sullies them as a community through such representations, while non-Parsis suggest that he sullies India as a whole. Do you agree with these criticisms? If so, why? If not, why not?
  5. Roy's The God of Small Things is a potent attack on both the caste system and patriarchy in India. But does she attack one of these discourses more forcefully than the other? If so, why? If not, why not?
  6. Adiga's The White Tiger takes place in a new India, one that is quickly rising in global stature. But Balram's story makes it clear that the new India coexists with an old India, one animated by caste divisions and vast economic disparities. Does the novel satisfactorily reconcile India as an up-and-coming global superpower with India as a nation crippled by caste divisions and economic disparities? If so, how? If not, why not?

Essay One, First Due Date: 11 October 2011

Essay One Final Due Date: 25 October 2011

Essay Two/Research Paper, First Due Date: 17 November 2011

Essay Two/Research Paper, Final Due Date: 1 December 2011

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