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Seminars 2 pm

Seminar Guidelines

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. If there is more than one presenter, they should work as a team. Please email me your questions by Wednesday midnight at the very latest so that they can be uploaded on to the website.

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. Include what about it can open up discussion on the text.

Week Text Thursday, 2-3 pm Thursday, 4-5 pm  
1 Introduction to African Literature - - -
2   Fran and Mayowa - -
3   Jahnvi    
4   Rajvi    
5   Tanisha    
7   Rowan    
8   Claire    
9   Safiyaa    
10   Lia    


WEEK 8 (Claire)

  1. How does the novel highlight that Johannesburg's post-apartheid environment is yet still a direct product of the separationist era?
  1. The Portrait with Keys as a map of the city: what are its strenghs and weaknesses?
  1. Discuss the meanings and stakes of nature in the book: wether in periphery or within the city.

WEEK 4 (Rajvi)

  1. Patriarchy and Power question

  • Chart the appearances of the lions in the text. Is there something noteworthy about their symbolism? What are the literary, social and metaphysical meanings of the lionesses, and their attacks? In particular, why are both the lions and their victims female? Speak about sisterhood in the novel.

  1. Nature question

  • How do the African bush and its inhabitants (the animals) interact with the humans in the story? Explore the relationship between the human abode and the lions’ abode. Do they seem to merge, in the text? Does one have an effect on the other, in a social or metaphysical sense, as well as physical?

  • Think of other aspects of nature here too. Such as the unnamed neighbour and the fish.

  • What is the relation between ‘feminine’ energy and nature?

  • Environment and protection. Poaching. The hunter speaks of how young and pregnant female animals should not be killed. Claims he is the last hunter.

  • Order and chaos

  • Man and beast

  1. Religion question

  • Follow the religious allusions in the text. How do they shape meanings?

  1. Themes and structural choices in the novel and how they are explored

  • Speech in the novel is signified with italics.

  • Each chapter is prefaced with an epithet.

  • There are two main perspectives.

  • Discuss the interactions between language, superstition, patriarchy, communication and memory, in the text.

  • Why has the writer made such choices?

  1. Family question

  • Discuss family, tradition, male authority, superstition and the significance of the grandfather/ father figure for both narrators.

  1. Ghost question

  • Chart the ghosts in the text. Explore their literary and social meanings.

WEEK 3 (Jahnavi)

  1. In The House Gun, Harald and Claudia learn that “violence is a hell of all who are associated with it.” Explore the how the personal becomes a microcosm for the political in The House Gun. How does Duncan’s crime of passion intertwine with the realities of crime in South Africa?
  1. Gordimer outlines that the novel is “not a detective story”, explore the ways in which the writer expressed human contradictions regarding race, social relations, ethical authority and sexual identity through the perspective of the white protagonists.
  2. Analyse the symbol of the gun in the setting of apartheid South Africa. Does the prevalence of guns and violence skew Duncan’s culpability for his crime? How is the writer commenting on the dangerous accessibility of firearms in apartheid South Africa?



1. How is the English language and colonial English culture/ideals presented ? How is Shona and Tambu's culture presented?
2. How is gender inequality demonstrated through the novel?
3. Explore the significance of Nhamo's death, especially it being mentioned in the opening line.
  1. How does the novel depict the different relationships between the women and their education through different stages and experiences in their lives?
  2. How do the themes of family and tradition interact with the themes of feminism, colonialism and education within the novel?



  1. Prominent themes in The Adivasi Will Not Dance stories include the condition of women in a patriarchal society and poverty. What is a key example that you can point out which presents the sights thin of the Adivasi people?
  2. For Satyajit Ray, dir. Days and Nights in the Forest “In Ray’s films, all the women are of superior moral sensibility, while the men are like helpless children,” Tagore explained. - do you agree with this statement?



1. How does the novel depict Balram’s views on social mobility and the caste system in India?


1. ‘ The roosters in the coop smell the blood from above. They see the organs of their brothers...They know they’re next. Yet they do not rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop. The very same thing is done with human beings in this country.’

2. Did Balram truly stop becoming a servant after murdering his way into success? Or is he still part of the rooster coop cycle until someone else overthrows him? 

Explore the concept of familial destruction, and whether this is necessary in order for those in the ‘Darkness’ to become free. Focus in particular on Balram’s conflicting duty towards his blood relatives and his master, Ashok.  

3. What is the significance of the India of Darkness and the India of Light and how is this portrayed through characters like Pinky and material objects like the chandelier, the metaphor of the Honda and Delhi?

WEEK 7 (Krishna): No submission

WEEK 5 (Fran/Ambia)


1. What is the significance and symbolism of the use of twins in the narrative?
2. Why is the structure, including flashbacks and years (1969 and 1993 ) important to the narrative?
3. The caste system is integral to the narrative. Why is the specific term untouchable important when considering the love laws and forbidden love?

1. In what ways are the women in Ayemenem subjugated to male dominance and violence throughout their lives and within the community - how is violence and sex bridged?

2. How does the concept and reality of caste effect characters and their perspectives of others? (Could be specific to the twins, or Baby Kochamma or Ammu or Chacko)

3. What does the Paradise Pickles & Preserves serve as a symbolism of as well as the process of pickling? Explore this in relation to the themes of time, forbidden things and secrets.



  1. How do you think the form and structure of the narrative convey the impact of war, occupation and trauma?
  2. What do you think about the parallels and contrasts portrayed in the novel and their significance (e.g., the narrator and Hussain, Baba and Khadim Hussain)?
  3. At the end of the novel, the narrator sets fire to the corpses in the valley, describing it as his "only decision in years". What do you think is the significance of this act - of ending the novel on this note and in relation to the rest of the narrative?


1- How is The Collaborator a tale of isolation from every standpoint: geographical, social, and psychological?

2- India and the current government are described as ‘a colossus with countless arms and limbs and tongues and claws…’ (p.278 Penguin Edition) which cannot be resisted. How does this put into perspective the narrator’s constant inaction leading to his collaboration with Kadian and underlines the moral dilemma put upon the people: whether to choose the life-threatening path of resistance against oppression or to choose a passive behaviour (thus collaboration) in an attempt to protect one’s relatives?

3- How is the line between life and death blurred by the narrator to cope with the trauma and psychological distress inflicted by his job? How does he process questions of guilt and humanity through his perceptions of nature, the dead bodies, and the people of the village?



1. Think about the symbolism of Shame throughout the novel, and its various embodiments.

  • National identity? (Pakistan and its past; paralleled with the characters and their pasts)

  • Sexualisation of the female body? (objectification; dismemberment; childbirth)

  • Birth (background; parentage; upbringing)

  • Social Status and its link to Marriage

  • Manhood/ Masculinity

  • Madness/ Mental issues/ Sanity (psychologically challenged = discomfort to family + scapegoated)

  • Suicide and death (seen as the only “solutions” to shame. Sufiya’s suicidal grandfather and her own almost death, by her husband and father.

  • Shame vs Good News. Shame implied as ‘Bad News,’ something that travels from external places into a house/ family/ internal conflict and stirs things up.

  • Shame vs Shamelessness. There is no escape. Either do the judging or be judged.

2. What is the interaction between internalized misogyny, patriarchy and shame in the text? Explore instances of where these themes are focalized.

3. There is a long-standing tradition between violence and societally imposed ideas about shame in both countries. How explicitly is this relationship explored in the novel?


1. How do themes of shame and shamelessness intersect despite the different storylines and subplots?

2. What do you think is the role/purpose of gendered shame in the novel?