Modern Literature of South Asia
This course will introduce the modern literature of South Asia (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) from the fifteenth century to the present. Focus will be on novels, short stories and poetry from various South Asian languages (read in translation). The first half of the course covers two novels by women authors, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and The Crooked Line by Ismat Chughtai. Both detail the coming-of-age of a young protagonist: a second-generation Bengali American coming to terms with his identity in 1980s America (The Namesake); and a young Muslim girl moving from village to city in pre-Independence north India (The Crooked Line). In the second half of the course, we turn to shorter and more complex literary forms: a selection of short stories on the 1947 Independence/Partition of India and Pakistan, followed by Moth Smoke, a recent allegorical novel on present-day Pakistan by Mohsin Hamid. After a brief unit on stories of morality and deception from R.K. Narayan‘s Malgudi Days, we conclude with examples of poetry from the Hindu devotional (bhakti) and Urdu classical lyric (ghazal) traditions. No background in South Asian literature or languages is presupposed. Class sessions will focus on discussion and analysis. Assignments will include close reading and short essay assignments; a group presentation; participation in class discussion; and a final paper.