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Seminars 3 pm

Seminar Guidelines

SEMINARS IN WEEK 10 will be ONLINE on TEAMS.

Attendance: Attendance at each seminar (whether online or face-to-face) is mandatory. If for some reason you need to miss a seminar, please do email your seminar tutor (Pablo or Rashmi) and let us know your reason. Please also wear a mask to class. Let your tutor know if you are medically exempt.

Seminar Participation: Seminars generally succeed or fail because of the quality of group participation. This means that you must keep on top of the required readings—reading thoroughly, carefully and in a timely manner. In order to prepare for the seminar, you should a)view the lecture for the week and formulate a question or response to any aspect of it; b) formulate a question and a point for discussion for each reading. One useful way to do this is to focus on a specific part of the lecture or a reading.

Class Presentation: Each seminar participant will be required to sign up for at least one class presentation on the week’s readings. The presenter/s will be required to formulate about 4 questions based on the readings and present them to the group. Please email me your questions by Wednesday 5 pm at the very latest so that they can be uploaded on to Teams.

The questions can be up to a paragraph long and should aim at provoking discussion. In other words, you are being asked to write questions to enable conversation; you are not being asked to write questions for exams. So make sure the questions are not ones that can be answered in an objective manner by anyone who has read the text.

Some tips:

Think of a problem that the text poses, either formal or thematic.

Choose a passage that you find rich and enigmatic. What about it can open up discussion on the text.

Week Text Thursday, 3-4 pm Thursday, 4-5 pm  
1 Introduction to the Term - - -
2 Partition Narratives Bella/Oreofe - -
3 Shame Farah/Ella    
4 The Collaborator Flora/Danielle    
5 The God of Small Things Matilda/Milan    
7 The Hungry Tide Josh/James    
8 Kari Claudia/Abi    
9 White Tiger Hazzan    
10 Shekhar/Devi/Ray Haleema    

WEEK 10 (Haleema)

1. Language is a key aspect of Devi’s novel. In particular, the language of state, maps tribal lives and how they appear to the state. Discuss the way in which the state maps the lives of the tribal/indigenous people?

 

2. Devi’s novel, in relation to indigenous Indian tribal people, calls attention to the issues they face in the current neoliberal climate of decolonised India, such as famine, drought, discrimination, and exploitation. Who does Devi hold accountable for these issues and what other social and political issues does Devi induce within her novel?

 

3. The term ‘tribal’ typically has negative and harsh connotations attached to it. Consider your own perceptions of the term tribal alongside the harsh realities that tribal people face. Do they align with one another, or do they differ?

 

4. The film us based upon several contrasts between: urban and rural life, men and women, innocence and corruption, love and lust. So, alongside these contrasts, discuss the significance of the contrasts in language. (Think about the way the English is intersperse with Bengali)

WEEK 9 (Hazzan)

1. Explore how light & darkness is used and characterized in The White Tiger to push forward discussions about class? And/or Discuss the impact of Balram’s many names (“boy” “Munna” “White Tiger” “Country Mouse” “Ashok Sharma”) 

2. How (& why) are the literary and societal binaries set up in The White Tiger are disrupted?

3. Thematically, the nuance of religion and spirituality plays a large role in The White Tiger. How does Adiga achieve this?

4. For many readers, much literature about India exoticizes the nation, portraying it as an "other." How far does Adiga’s exploration of India in a globalized world step away from this?

WEEK 8 (Abigail and Claudia)

1. As the text nears its close, Kari moves further towards androgyny. In its second last chapter she decides to get her hair cut into a 2 mm buzz-cut to attend a crucial awards function. She refuses to adopt a traditionally feminine image deciding instead to look like ‘GI Jane’. Address the implication of non-conformity and gender performance throughout the text, particularly in relation to Kari’s queer identity resulting in Kari’s feeling of exclusion and alienation.

2. Think about Kari’s suffocation in the “smog city”. Explore the way in which Patil depicts the city through a combination of text and visuals, and what themes in the text could these depictions shed light on?

3. The city itself is portrayed like a decaying body. The canals are called ‘varicose veins’, the grey water is ‘skin’. The city is ageing and choked with smog, and Kari, in her role as boatman, travels the canals in her canoe, tending the city like a graveyard. Explore the metaphor of Kari as a boatman, saving her decaying city which is likened to a corpse. How does Kari experience the city, and how does the city space mediate Kari’s relationship with herself and her identity?

4. During this module, we have spoken extensively about translation and language. Where does image fit into this? According to a journalist, ‘comics have a long history of being removed, banned, and censored’, so does the graphic novel facilitate increased politicisation, or transcend language barriers? How is it limited? Consider language and communication in Kari.

5. We read about ‘love laws’ – ‘the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much’ – in Roy’s The God of Small Things. Here too, Patil writes ‘whatever love laws have to be broken, the first few seconds suffice. After that everything is a matter of time and incident’ (69). What does this tell us about love and rebellion, and what does this imply about the limits of progressiveness in a modern India?

WEEK 7 (Josh and James)

1. What is the significance of Nirmal's regular quoting of Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry? Does Kanai admire his uncle Nirmal's writing as much as Nirmal admires Rilke's?
2. Kusum calls the dolphins "Bon Bibi's messengers". (third page of Destiny chapter) Piya says during the villagers' burning of the tiger "'This is an animal, Kanai, you can’t take revenge on an animal.'"(seventh page of A Killing chapter) How does Ghosh present the natural world in The Hungry Tide? Do you agree with Piya's equal treatment of all animals (even when they kill humans) or Fokir's appreciation for only the harmless animals, such as the dolphins?
 
3. In the novel, Piya and Kanai’s interactions with others base around the use of language. How are language barriers bypassed in the novel? How does one express themselves without a shared dialect?
 
4. “One of the many ways,” said Nirmal, “in which the tide country resembles a desert is that it can trick the eye with mirages.”’ To what extent does Lusibari and the Sundarbans as a whole paint itself as a paradise or a hell? Would you live there?

WEEK 5 (Matilda and Milan)

1. Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was wrong-footed, caught off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks, its scars, its wounds from old wars and the walking backwards days all fell away. In its absence it left an aura, a palpable shimmering that was as plain to see as the water in a river or the sun in the sky. As plain to feel as the heat on a hot day, or the tug of a fish on a taut line. So obvious that no one noticed. In that brief moment, Velutha looked up and saw things that he hadn’t seen before. Things that had been out of bounds so far, obscured by history’s blinkers. (Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things (Chapter 8, pp. 167-168).

How is ‘History’ presented as visible and simultaneously invisible? And to whom? At which point does history lurk in the shadows, and when does History become its loudest, its own character?

2. In the lecture, Rashmi comments on capitalism as one of the causes of separation in social relations. As the rise of capitalism in India develops, how does this alter a separation in the nation based on caste, class, and religion? Has the focus on Caste reduced, as economic capitalism thrives in contemporary India?

3. The question of honour is also raised in the climax of the novel, as Baby Kochamma states ‘ The only way to save our honour is to get the twins to lie’. Roy merges honour and caste together to create a narrow lens for society to function in India.

Ammu Wept: ‘I have been having an affair with an Untouchable’

Chacko replies: "That's even worse than Velutha killing Sophie Mol,"

Can India ever function without Caste? Additionally, what does this have to say about the restriction of female desire, and freedom?

 

WEEK 4 (Flora and Danielle)

1)The novel uses both space and time to explore the impact of the conflict on Kashmir and her people. Nowgam, the location in which the entire novel is situated, is a very limited space compared to the much wider and unknown space the village inhabitants eventually venture into. Time is also significant in that the past constantly encroaches on the narrator’s present and there is an explicit separation between the ‘then and now’. Consider the ways in which time and space are depicted within the narrative and how this impacts our perception of events, context, or characters within the novel.

2)'By the way, did I mention there’s a profusion of tiny yellow flowers growing among the grasses here? If you look from the top on a sunny day, you can see these shiny objects scattered across the lush meadowy patch around the river. These are erstwhile legs and arms and backbones and ribcages surrounded by sparkling swathes of yellow created by the thousands and thousands of flowers all across the valley' (P. 14) One reading of this quote is it shows the juxtaposition of nature and death. And this could be an analogy for how Kashmir is seen as both paradise and battlefield. What other passages show various presentations of Kashmir and what are those presentations? What does this suggest about Kashmir’s role in the political states around it?
3)‘They all burn in the big fire I’ve cooked up, the fire I watch now, my fire, my only act, my only decision in years, my fire.’ The act of burning the bodies in the valley is a highly significant moment in this novel for the narrator. It is, as he states, the only decision he has made to rebel. Think about the ways the narrator changes over the course of the novel. What makes his final act so important? Was this inevitable? Does the fire have any further symbolism other than the destruction of the abandoned dead?

4)‘One evidently encounters a recounting of the tale by male characters in the form of masculinized memories and experiences through a masculinized perspective in these novels. Women are mostly portrayed as silent victims and often as center of disputes, metaphorically very much like the territories which are inflicted with terror. In all these accounts the woes and humiliation of women get only passing references, and many times their side of the story is completely neglected, never really narrated.’ (Dr. Akhter Habib Shah The Silenced Voice: The marginalized Role of Women Characters in the Novels on Kashmir Conflict) Discuss whether you believe this is a fair assessment of the women in The Collaborator. Do you agree or disagree and to what extent?

5) Chapter 13 is dedicated almost entirely to the narrator’s response to a single body – Rouf Qadri. Consider the reason for this and what this consequently tells us about the ways in which the narrator is processing trauma.

WEEK 3 (Farah and Ella)

  1. “The narrator’s thesis, and, to some extent, the novel’s, is about the connection between shame and violence and not, despite the text’s repeated claims, about the origin of shame itself. The latter is perceived and presented as an immediate fact, not a social construct.”

Ben-Yishai, Ayelet. “The Dialectic of Shame: Representation in the metanarrative of Salman Rushdie's Shame.” Modern Fiction Studies, Spring 2002, vol. 48, p.207

Respond to Ben-Yishai’s critique by dissecting the ideas of the origins of shame (cultural, religious, geographic?) and violence as a compulsion of shame.

 

  1. “The fictional equivalents of Bhutto and Zia are such perfect, buffoon-like caricatures, and the many narrative lines of the political parable are woven so much around their ineptitude, their vacuity, their personal insecurities and one-upmanships, their sexual obsessions, the absurdities of their ambitions and their end, that one is in danger of forgetting that Bhutto and Zia were in reality no buffoons, but highly capable and calculating men whose cruelties were entirely methodical.”

Ahmad, Aijaz. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. London: Verso, 1992, pp. 141.

In which ways is Raza Hyder and Iskander Harappa’s political charade, unravelled to us in parody, illuminating or obscuring when thinking of the real-life backdrop of (misplaced) authority in Pakistan that Rushdie drew inspiration from?

 

  1. “...but finally she eluded me, she became a ghost, and I realized that to write about her, about shame, I would have to go back East, to let the idea breathe its favourite air. Anna, deported, repatriated to a country she had never seen caught brain-fever and turned into a sort of idiot” (Shame)

What are the benefits and drawbacks of Rushdie setting this novel in the East, away from where his inspiration was conceived in London, and merging the figure of Anna with Sufiya Zinobia?

 

  1. “Don’t you know that shame is collective? The shame of any one of us sits on all of us and bends our backs” (Shame, 84)

With this quote in mind, how does Rushdie explore the idea that shame and honour are shared burdens and can subsequently facilitate the breakdown of family units throughout the novel?

 

  1. Discuss the ways in which sexuality is presented as the recurring downfall of female characters in the novel.

6. If Sufiya Zinobia is Shame and Omar Khayyam Shakil is Shamelessness, then where in the novel, if anywhere, do we find Honour? You may wish to reference the dialects of shame as discussed in the lecture and the simplification of the above categorisations.

WEEK 2 (Oreofe and Bella)

Question One – Open It

“Open It” closely follows the perspective of the father, Sirajuddin. Considering Sakina’s assault and themes of female innocence is central to the story, would the narrative be better told from her point of view instead? What would be the merits and drawbacks if this was changed?

Question Two – Toba Tek Singh

 

We can all appreciate the significance of Toba Tek Singh’s displacement from the perspective of an ailing old man. Manto has successfully captured the madness of the partition, but they have also given us several alternative plot lines. Which of these plotlines do you think could rival the narrative of Bishan Singh? Or do you think Manto’s choice is infallible to the plot?

 

Question Three – How many Pakistans?

 

Banno’s body in “How Many Pakistans?” is used as a symbolic device that successfully conveys the discomfort and agony brought about by the partition. Though this would have been an unfortunate reality for some women at the time, would it be fair to argue that this text is still objectifying them? Consider the changes a female voice would make to this narrative.

 

A thought: Told from a male perspective, can it be said that there is some romanticisation in the depiction of Banno’s suffering?

Question Four – Garm Hava

 

Garm Hava: A windstorm that lifts up clouds of dust or sand

 

Opening / Closing lines of Film:

 

The land is divided, lives are shattered. Storms rage in the heart; it’s the same here or there. Funeral pyres in every home, the flames mount higher. Every city is deserted; it’s the same here or there. No one heeds the Gita; no one heeds the Koran. Faith has lost all meaning; here or there.

 

Those who view the storm from afar, see no difference between here and there. To join in and become a part of it. This is the call of the times , here and there.

 

Using the film’s opening and closing lines as a stimulus, discuss the impact of the partition on the individuality of a Muslim living in India post-partition.