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Seminars 3 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, 3-4 pm  
1 Introduction to African Literature - - -
2     Liz Johnson -
4     Sapna Popatia  
5     Helena Buckley  
7     Sineen Rahman  
8     Allaya  
9     Tawanda  


WEEK 4 (Sapna)

1. “Kulumani was more of an orphan than I was.” (58) How is the natural world presented in the novel? Is it character in itself and how it is given agency?


2. Is Archangel a hero for the village of Kulumani? Or is his foreignness seen as a threat to the people of the village.


3. Mariamar says “In our nocturnal hiding place, I learned to laugh inside me, to shout voicelessly, to dream without dreams.” (91) In what ways do the women respond to the patriarchal nature of Kulumani?

WEEK 2 (Liz)

1)    Babamukuru is seen by the narrator as a hero, a God, and a father. How does the novel define the role of father? How does it differ from our perception of the role?
2)    How is education portrayed in the novel? Can ‘’Englishness’ and education be separated?

3)    "What it is,’ she sighed, ‘to have to choose between self and security’" 101

How does the novel portray the relationship between the self as security? Can you be true to yourself and still be secure?

WEEK 9 (Anika)

1. Think about the setting of Balram’s childhood. How does his childhood environment impact his personality? Are they good or bad impacts and how does the setting of your childhood impact your opportunities?

2. What does the title ‘White Tiger’ reveal about Balram as a character and what deeper meaning does it hold?

3. Can we justify Balram’s decision to murder Ashok and if yes, why? Discuss the sacrifice of his family – is this justifiable or reckless?

WEEK 7 (Sapna)

1.Take a closer look at the relationship between Piya and Fokir, and consider what is the importance of communication/language in the novel? How do they express themselves without a shared dialect?

 2.Kusum calls the dolphins ‘Bon Bibi’s messengers’ (235) How does Ghosh represent the relationship between the natural world and the religious/spiritual world of Sundarbans?

 3. Nilima says to Kanai ‘you’re all the same, you men, who can blame the tigers when predators like you pass for human beings.’ (243)

How does Ghosh present Kanai and the ideas of gender throughout the novel? Do we like Kanai as our narrator?

WEEK 5 (Helena)

  1. Who or what are the ‘Small Things’ in the novel, and how does the narrative/narrator treat them? Why are they significant?
  2. “While other children of their age learned other things, Estha and Rahel learned how history negotiates its terms and collects its dues from those who break its laws.” (Pg. 55). What are the laws (legal and social) in the novel, and who are they reinforced by? What does this tell us about class/gender?
  3. Do you think love is transactional, or weaponised in the narrative?

WEEK 4 (Liz)

1. Grotesque, dismembered, and decaying bodies are littered throughout the narrative. How does the novel portray the human body through these graphic descriptions?
2. Compare the relationship between an individual and their family and between an individual and their nation or home.
3. Do you think the protagonist's choice to stay reveals bravery or cowardice?

WEEK 3 (Allaya)

    1. Rushdie declares that his role is to “build imaginary countries and try to impose them on the ones that exist.” (page 86). In Shame, he weaves a chaotic and fantastical narrative in the style of magical realism. Examine whether this genre is effective at illustrating the condition of post-partition Pakistan.
    1. Consider these quotes from chapter four (pages 60-61):
    • Bilquis “was crushed by the reborn awareness of her nudity, and began to cry out: ‘Give me a cloth!’ , until she saw that nobody was listening… Yet, she clutched at herself for shame.”
    • "overwhelmed by the humiliation of her undress, she passed out”
    • “It is the fate of migrants to be stripped of history, to stand naked outside the scorn of strangers"
    • How does Rushdie present the theme of nakedness (physically and metaphorically)?
    1. Sufiya Zinobia is frequently referred to as the “incarnation” of shame, namely because “lurking inside [her], there was a Beast” (page 208). How does the character of Sufiya Zinobia demonstrate the link between shame and violence?

    WEEK 2 (Rowan Richards)

    1. Pick out a moment in the readings where sense of family and community is bound up with space. What makes the moment powerful? Is the actual physical space important or is it what the physical space represents (family, community, religion etc)?

    2. What is the value of telling these narratives? What reasons are given for sharing stories of partition?