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Seminars 4 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   Mehr -
3 Shame   Aniza Siddaqua/Alliyat Balonun  
4 The Collaborator   Izzy Scicluna  
5 The God of Small Things   Lucy Vigar/JJ/Amelia Dunne  
7 Hungry Tide   Alisha Pulham  
8 Kari   Vandana Sahoo/Ravleen Kundola  
9 White Tiger   Alayna Ismail/Kayla Kiratu  
10 Shekhar/Devi/Ray   Moitree Hasan  

WEEK 10 (Leila)

  1. How does the theme of eroticism and female sexuality relate to the overarching commentary on ecocriticism, romanticism, and pastoralism?
  2. In 2017, the Jharkhand government banned The Adivasi Will Not Dance, claiming that it had negatively portrayed Santhal culture and Adivasi women, with the ban later being revoked December of that year. Considering ending to the novel, what can be said of its political relevance and its effectiveness in criticising such oppression?
  3. Aranyer Din Ratri is seen through the eyes of its four male, middle-class protagonists. How does this influence or alter our own perspectives when watching the film, and how does the film commentate on these outlooks?
  4. With there being a key emphasis and focus on the exploitation of women, how do the texts from this week explicitly and implicitly correlate it with Santhal culture, particularly in how others make use of it?

WEEK 9 (Alayna and Kayla)

ALAYNA

1. “Sir, neither you or I can speak English, but there are some things that can only be said in English”

This opening line in The White Tiger emphasises the vast importance of language, which is an important theme across the module. How is language important in the novel, and what is the significance of it being told in English?

2. Animal imagery is prominent throughout the narrative from the white tiger, the novel’s namesake, to the rich families who are all designated animal names based on their traits that stand out to Balram. Why is animal imagery so significant throughout the text, and how does it lend to wider themes in the novel?

3. “How do you get the nerve, I ask Aravind Adiga, to write a novel about the experiences of the Indian poor? After all, you're an enviably bright young thing, a middle-class, Madras-born, Oxford-educated ex-Time magazine correspondent? How would you understand what your central character, the downtrodden, uneducated son of a rickshaw puller turned amoral entrepreneur and killer, is going through?”

In an interview with the Guardian, Adiga is questioned on whether he, as a middle-class, educated man, is equipped to write about the experiences of the poor in India. Do you agree with this sentiment? Is Adiga wrong to assume the identity of a poor man, or does his narrative highlight important themes and ideas that give it importance in its own right?

KAYLA

  1. Adiga’s novel offers an unrelenting critique of post-colonial India for its inescapable corruption that capitalism presents. Think about where Adiga places blame for this corruption. Where do we think he places the onus for this? On the country’s history of colonialism? Or, on the native elite that benefit and perpetuate this system? Where do we think onus lies?
  2. What are the effects of the novel’s epistolary form? Why do we think Balram decides to tell his story through letters to Premier Jiabo? 
  3. “If I were making a country, I'd get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy,” 
  4. In the development of a new nation, we are first inclined to address political matters before matters of poverty and the wellbeing of all people of the nation, as Balram points out he would orchestrate the opposite. What do you think is the most significant issue to address first for all? Political freedom or financial freedom? And why. 
  5. “I swear by God, sir- all thirty six million and four of them- The moment I saw his face, I knew: This is the master for me.” -Balram Halwai

Discuss the role of the homo-erotic undertones that can perhaps be identified in the servant-master relationship of Anshok and Balram. What do we think here is Adiga’s wider commentary of the patriarchal society of India? As well as the wider effects of Adiga’s narration of a homosocial capitalist environment. Discuss the role women are assigned in the novel.

WEEK 8 (Ravleen/Vandana)

Ravleen:

1. Compared to the other texts we have studied, Patil chooses to tell the narrative in graphic novel form. Why do you think Patil chooses to use this form? In certain parts of the novel, Patil uses collages, and colour, despite the text’s mainly black and white look. What is the significance in her diverging from her usual style?
2. Patil’s graphic novel is full of a variety of women. What are the roles of the characters Angel, Billo and Delna in the text? How does Kari illustrate the lives of these Indian women and the societal gender roles that impact their lives.

3. “There are two of us, not one.”

The beginning of Kari opens to an allusion of one of Frida Kahlo’s famous self portraits. However, Patil’s version instead chooses to depict Kari and Ruth instead of just Kari. How does Patil depict the relationship between Kari and Ruth? Moreover, how does the graphic novel illustrate attitudes towards homosexuality and androgyny?

4. “Smog city”, as Kari calls it, is the setting for Patil’s graphic novel. How does the city’s atmosphere fit in to the themes of death and suffocation that Kari experiences? As a whole, what does the city reveal about attitudes of society?

WEEK 7 (Alisha)

1. ‘I wouldn’t understand?’ [Kanai] said sharply. ‘I know five languages; I’ve travelled all over the world. Why wouldn’t I understand?’

[…] ‘It doesn’t matter how many languages you know,’ [Moyna] said. ‘You’re not a woman and you don’t know him. You won’t understand.’ (p.156)
In what ways do Kanai and Piya’s education and prior experiences with the world, language and borders actually prevent them from understanding the culture and people of the Sundarbans? What instances in the novel challenge them to stop, both explicitly or subconsciously, considering themselves superior to the locals they encounter (e.g. Fokir’s songs, Nirmal’s diary, encounters with tigers and mother nature)?
2. What does Moyna mean when she claims Kanai would not understand why she married Fokir because Kanai is not a woman? What does this reveal about the role of women in the society in which Moyna lives, especially compared to the one in which Piya was raised?
3. ‘It was not just that he had thought to create a space for her; it was as if he had chosen to include her in some simple, practised family ritual, found a way to let her know that despite the inescapable muteness of their exchanges, she was a person to him and not, as it were, a representative of a species, a faceless, tongueless foreigner.’ (p.71)
How does Fokir, despite being characterised by his lack of education and ambition, demonstrate the power of forming connections with other human beings through translation and cultural exchange? Why is it that, despite Kanai being from a more similar upbringing and class to her, Piya actually feels closer to Fokir and is able to gain a much vaster understanding of the Sundarbans from/with him, despite rarely ever exchanging a word with him?
Additionally, what affect does it have that the novel is never narrated from Fokir’s perspective, and instead, we only ever hear him speak through Kanai? Why is it that Piya and Kanai both form vastly different initial opinions of him?
4. What does the apparent power imbalance between Moyna and Fokir, as well as the flip of traditional gender roles (Moyna is educated and ambitious, Fokir is illiterate and uneducated), reveal about the boundaries and struggles of progressing as a society? How would we read the novel if it was Fokir who was educated and Moyna who was reluctant to abandon her traditional ways? In the grand scheme of things, is Moyna’s treatment and dismissal of her husband justified?
5. How does Ghosh’s choice to set his novel in the Sundarbans, a place with constantly changing borders, affect our understanding of borders and cultural divides?

The Sundarbans is a protected region by UNESCO, but its conservation has come at the cost of the humans who had previously settled there. When reading The Hungry Tide, as well as when considering this struggle between groups and goals as whole, how are we as a reader positioned in relation to this conflict? Are we entitled to/is it our place to develop our own opinion?

WEEK 5 (WEEK 4 (Lucy, JJ and Amelia)

  1. “I love you I love you” Baby Kochamma writes into her diaries. What is the role of Baby Kochamma’s character in the novel? How does Roy’s exploration of the different generations of the Ipe family illuminate the novel’s themes?
  2. What is the effect of the non-chronological structure of the novel? In what way does this relate to the novel’s exploration of the past and the present, as well as the significance of history?
  3. In what ways could the specific depiction of caste and gender in relation to Ammu and Velutha, critique the broader traditions of India and their classist hierarchy - that as Roy said herself, highlights “biology and transgression”?
  4. Following Sophie Mol’s live burial, “Sophie Mol died because she couldn’t breathe. Her funeral killed her”, does Roy draw on elements of magical realism or just dramatic irony? Does that magical realism bear any resemblance to its use in Shame? Does it have the same intentions or motives?
  5. As previously discussed on the module, English’s status as a global language is the product of linguistic imperialism, and is thus often reutilised and reappropriated in order to capture postcolonial realities. How does Roy remould and shape language through various linguistic innovations (e.g. capitalisation, neologisms, babytalk/compounding etc) and what are their effects?
  6. How are the other spaces – external to Kerala and with a different colonial history (belonging to the Anglosphere i.e., the US, and Oxford in the UK) – presented in the novel and how do they intersect with the central locale of Ayemenem? How does this interaction depict wider cultural and national relations?

WEEK 4 (IZZY)

  1. “To Kashmiris, India has always treated Kashmir as a colony” (Waheed for Democracy Now!, 1:25). How does Waheed address archival silence surrounding Kashmir and the passive role Kashmiris have been allowed to play in documenting their own history?  
  2. How is masculinity defined by Kashmiri culture and is this redefined in the context of the ongoing conflict? To what extent does the unnamed protagonist typify or subvert the masculine? How does Waheed tackle gendered violence in the Kashmir conflict?
  3. How does Waheed define Kashmiri and Indian nationalism within the novel? How does this define Kashmir as a desirable region? How does Waheed outline a collective Kashmiri identity? What does patriotism mean in a disputed territory?
  4. What does Azadi mean for Waheed and the Kashmiri people? How do questions of personal autonomy reflect and respond to those of political freedom? How does this relate to discussions of freedom we have seen in partition narratives earlier on the module?
  5. “I’m not writing a history tutorial; it’s a novel” (Waheed for ‘Writers Allowed’, 3:30). Who has the authority to write stories but also who has the right to read these stories? Do authors have a responsibility to educate their readers or is it possible to “just” write a novel?

    References:

      

WEEK 3 (ANIZA AND ALLIYAT)

1. ‘This word: shame. No, I must write it in its original form, not in this peculiar language tainted by wrong concepts and the accumulated detritus of its owners unrepented past, this angrezi in which I am forced to write, and so forever alter what is written…
Sharam, that’s the word. For which this paltry ‘shame’ is a wholly inadequate translation.’ (pg.38)
Discuss the issue of translation raised here by Rushdie. Why is shame, or ‘sharam’, a concept which must be discussed within the boundaries of its own language? What affect does it have, or maybe lose, when translated in English?

2. In what ways can the relationship between the three mothers and Omar be seen as allegorical of the past and the present in a post-partition society? Does Omar hold on to any values of the past? How can we then link this to the context of the partition?

3. How does shame manifest differently within Omar and Sufiya? In what ways can we credit this to ideas surrounding their gender disparities?

4. How would you say shame relates to violence within the novel? What characters can we see demonstrates this correlation?

5. Consider how time and space are altered in the narrative structure. What is the overall affect this has on the novel and its readers?

6. Why has Rushdie chosen to set his story in a fantastical version of Pakistan? What do we think his intentions were when intertwining magical realism within his story?

WEEK 2/MEHR

1. The use of oral history, specifically of this event, is unreliable. Discuss. /The model of talking about problems in therapy is incompatible with traumas such as living through or attributed to the partition. Discuss.

2. How does the partition affect the children born after the partition? Does the decision made by Fawzia to not have her children go through an identity crisis like their father (pg.3) work out as the way she intends to? How is the family structure affected?

3. In terms of translation, are there any differences between the ‘English’ translation of ‘Khol do’ and ‘The Dawn of Freedom’? Does the differences in the type of language affect the way we feel about the partition?

4. Could the poem, ‘The Dawn of Freedom’ be described as patriotic? If so, how does this complicate the patriotic motif in partition narratives, such as in the speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru?

5. What/where are the many Pakistans that Kamleshwar’s refers to? How does this relate to the Punjabi word, ‘watan’?

6. In an article by The Wire, Devika Mittal writes that the short story ‘Toba Tek Singh’ raises “profound questions on the definition of sanity and the thinning of boundaries between the ‘mad’ and the sane world.” What is the function of the mad and the sane in the short story?

7. ‘Garm Hava’ translates to ‘hot wind’. What relevance does this have to the film? In the film ‘Garm Hava’, the partition causes different type of issues separate to those depicted in the other texts. What are these and what value do they add to partition narratives, in which some narratives as Butalia suggests are silenced?