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Seminar 1 pm


Mondays, 1-2:30 pm

Week 1: Sarah Hughes

Week 2:

Week 3: Mayssa

Week 4: Nina

Week 5: Laura Bellevue

Week 7: Kayla

Week 8: Low En Xing and Ravleen; Sophie

Week 9: Victoria and Janice

Week 10: Sineen



WEEK NINE (Victoria)

1. What role does fate and fatalism play for Nazneen in the novel? Does her relationship with it change throughout the novel and in her pursuit of self-determination?

2. How does the relationship with her sister Hasina reflect the contrast between modernity and tradition in the novel?

3. How are gender roles portrayed in the novel? How can the ‘double oppression’ that we have already talked about in the seminar be perceived concerning Nazneen?

WEEK EIGHT (Low En Xing)

  1. “Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”


In what ways does Haraway’s imagination of the cyborg differ from the mythic ideal of the goddess? Are her ideas of the cyborg transgressive, or does it dangerously eliminate and ignore race and class differences between women?

  1. “Places of consumption encourage us to think of ourselves not as links in a chain but, rather, as the center of the world”


How have our current consumption patterns manifested into such ways of thinking? What are the further implications of capitalism and its exploitation of cheap labour?


1.Given Kaplan’s criticisms of The Body Shop, can there truly be such a thing as an ‘ethical’ business of this scale? Discuss your reasoning.  

2.What are the implications of the commodification of difference and the use of the exotic as a ‘resource’ in contemporary advertising?  

3.‘Cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication’ (Haraway 312). Discuss the concept of cyborg politics in relation to other texts we have studied so far.  

4.‘Bodies are maps of power and identity’ (Haraway 315). Where have we seen examples of this in the fictional narratives we have studied so far? 


1. “The contradictory discourse of trans/national geographics represents a world that is composed of centre and periphery, yet the periphery is always on the point of vanishing.”

How does this relationship between the centre and the periphery impact how we discuss solidarity and representation? Are there any examples in current media, or the works we’ve read, that resonate with Kaplan's work?
2. “The Cyborg would not recognise the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust.”
How does the cyborg subvert the “deepened dualisms” of American socialists and feminists? Or Discuss the ideas of crafting “poetic/politic unity” away from traditional western politics that are mentioned.


1. “It’s bad enough . . . when a country gets colonized, but when the people do as well! That’s the end, really, that’s the end.” Do you believe that Tambu's efforts to improve her life and escape poverty through education, which some people perceive as an attempt to assimilate into whiteness, are a valid target of criticism?

2. In what ways does the novel address the complexities of identity formation in the context of colonialism and postcolonialism?

3. How does the character of Nyasha challenge traditional gender and cultural norms?

4. How does Tambu's relationship with her family evolve throughout the novel?

5. What is the significance of the ways in which womanhood is represented across the two different generations? (Tambu & Nyasha and Maiguru & Ma'Shingayi)


  1. How does Kamila Shamsie depict the notion of “love” as a conflicting theme in her world(s), as well as for the characters throughout the novel?
  • Give examples.

2. In this text, one May allude to the progression of the ‘New Woman’ as a product of modernity in the Western world. If you agree, what main qualities does the character Isma adopt to portray this?


3. “For girls, becoming women was inevitability; for boys, becoming men was ambition.” How do the 3 factors: Race, Religion & Gender work together to cause upheaval and inequality in the story?

  • What do you think the themes of ‘travel’ and ‘movement’ represents in Home Fire.


I/(The Battle of Algiers) What was your experience as a non-French/Arabic speaker after watching this movie? How do you consider the representation made of the colonizer and the colonized? How do you think the public reacted to this movie?


II/(The Battle of Algiers) Would you consider this cinematic work as an accurate depiction of Algerian women's feminism? How would you then qualify their feminism?


III/(Fanon) “Thus the rape of the Algerian woman in the dream of a European is always preceded by a rending of the veil. We here witness a double deflowering” and “the European always dreams of a group of women, of a field of women, suggestive of the gynaeceum, the harem-exotic themes deeply rooted in the unconscious”.


From the extracts given here but also from your comprehension of the text how would you describe the relationship maintained between the veiled Algerian woman and the European colonizer? How is it any different with the case of the unveiled Algerian woman? The European woman?


IV/(Fanon) From your comprehension of the text, what is the place of the Algerian woman in Algerian society? How is it perceived by the colonizer?


1. Two kinds of answer. Silence. Hurt rebuke in the eyes. Shame on you! Why bring this up? What will be will be… (“Draupadi” 396).

How do these reactions to questions surrounding conflict and responsibility play out in each of the short stories? How do we see these defences used when discussing modern-day atrocities? Why might they be so potent?

How are these ideas of Fate different from the defence of ‘What will be will be…’? Why do you think Mahasweti Devi chose to contrast ‘high-caste boy’ and ‘outcaste’? How is gender understood through caste in these stories?

How does this story challenge the ideas of fate discussed in “Douloti the Bountiful”? How do Mary's choices and actions differ from Douloti and Draupadi's? Why might this be?



  1. What was your experience reading this text as a non-Spanish speaker? Did you feel as though you were able to comprehend the extent of Anzaldua’s argument? Why do you think they felt it necessary to produce a bilingual text?
  2. “Gringos in the US Southwest consider the inhabitants of the borderlands transgressors, aliens - whether they possess documents or not, whether they are Chicanos, Indians or Blacks.”

    What do you think this says about the idea of solidarity and transnational feminist theory?

  3. How do you think Anzaldua’s aversion to Gringos coincides with her struggle as a mestiza, and the struggle between the limitations that cultural collision within the Borderlands creates?
  4. “The answer to the problem between the white race and the coloured, between males and females, lies in heating the split that originates in the very foundation of our Eves" our culture, our languages, our thoughts.”

    Can you envision Anzaldua’s proposal achieving what it sets out to do?



1. Mies article focuses on economic and financial reasons behind gender relations, how have economic and financial factors dictated gender relations in any of the fiction texts we have studied this term?

2. Mies articulates the history of modern patriarchy (74) in what ways does the ‘white’ feminism we have discussed and criticised in class uphold and maintain this patriarchy?


1. “Becoming Dagongmei (Working Girls): the Politics of Identity and Difference in Reform China"analyses how workplace dynamics ‘manufacture’ their own social and moral codes, including, for example, sharing becoming equated with stealing (6). With examples from module texts, or your own experiences, discuss how capitalist interests may shape our concepts of right and wrong, and how practices like mutual aid may be seen to undermine these beliefs.

2. Mohanty describes ‘the specific definition of Third-World, immigrant women as docile, tolerant, and satisfied with substandard wages.’ (18) Where do we see examples of these assumptions in the texts we have read so far? How do we think this definition has become ‘naturalised’?

All three texts note the significance of ‘the worker’ as an identity. Discuss how such an identity conflicts with familial identities of mother/wife, and how this may be further complicated by distinctions in race, class, and sexuality.


WEEK 8 (Janice)


1. :-In Engendering Critique : Post national feminism in past colonial Syria and in Fictions of Feminist Ethnography, both authors mention the opposition between feminism and national liberation for women. Do you think women can efficiently fight for their rights as women as well as for their countries ?

-Did the opposition between feminism and national liberation played a role in how women were fighting back then as Rebecca Gould in Engendering Critique : Post national feminism in past colonial Syria indicates ?
2. « When effectively deployed, feminist critique can disrupt the homogenous & overwhelming masculine solidarity inculcated by the nation-state » (p.215)
- How would you evaluate this quote today ? Is it still up to date ? Would you agree to it, and why ?
3. « Janaki perceived me as an historian, and such a writer of ‘official history’ - an official history of which she was aware and in which she wanted to be included » (p.49)
-What do you think Kamala Visweswaran means when she talks about « official history » ? What is implied by this term ?
- Do you think the way history is presented to us (eg. school/uni) changes its impact or its leaning and our perception of it ? Do you think it matters how History is given to us ?


1. How is the character Bimala an active emulation of the conflict between realism and idealism in early 20th century India?
2. Discuss the strategic ways in which Tagore explores the nationalist movement in his text. For example, through events in the novel or simply characters.
3. “At that time the prince of the fairytale had faded , like the moon in the morning light. I had the prince of my real world enthroned in my heart. I was his queen. I had my seat by his side. But my real joy was that my true place was at his feet.” - Bimala.
- What does this quotation suggest about the role of the woman within society & marital relationships as a whole?


  1. ‘While Victorian sexual ideology cast woman as the weaker sex, it endowed her at the same time with unquestionable moral superiority’. Are there any current day examples of white feminism and the assumed ‘moral superiority’ of white woman in the 21st century?  
  2. Discuss whether white women can become involved in, or proactive about, a feminist issue that concerns POC without suggesting a sense of moral superiority or fulfilling the ‘white woman’s burden’. If so, how can this be done? 
  3. Discuss the effects of travel as a ‘mode of broadening the mind’ (162), in Grewal’s text. What does it suggest about English education? 


1. “At this time, black women became ever more closely associated with an unbridled, lascivious sexuality. The association of black people and sexuality goes back to the Middle Ages: sexuality itself had long been called “the African sin {..}” How do these beliefs in examples such as Voyage in the Dark present themselves? And to what extent do these ideas persist in contemporary media and how does new media seek to challenge these ideas?
2. “Hands expressed one’s class by expressing one’s relation to labour” What are some other examples of how bodies are categorised? In comparison, is there a difference in how we 'read' bodies now? Also, how does using clothes, another example, compare to the analysis of hands used in this one? Is there a difference?
3. “Walking bespoke leisure and male power” Examine the role of the flaneur and what their role suggests about the state of the city. In voyage in the dark, or other examples, which characters navigate the city, and how does it fit in with the idea also presented that the city is a “feminized space”?
4. “Working-class women were figured as biologically driven to lechery and excess; upper class women were naturally indifferent to the deliriums of the flesh” To what extent are ideas of gender shaped by class? How do, Victorian ideas of class and sexuality, present in the reading? Also, how do ideas of gender, class and race intersect and what do they reveal in the moments they do?

Week 2: Sarah Hughes

1. I said, ‘Oh, stop laughing at me, I’m sick of it.’

‘What’s the joke?’ I said.

They went on laughing.

I was smoking, and I put the end of my cigarette down on Walter’s hand. I jammed it down hard and held it there, and he snatched his hand away and said ‘Christ!’. But they had stopped laughing.

‘Bravo, kid,’ Germaine said, ‘Bravo.’ (74).

What do you think is the significance of laughter – and its effect on Anna – throughout the novel, particularly in relation to her status/nickname of ‘kid’? Would you consider this moment of assertion a turning point for Anna in the novel? Would you consider this a moment of assertion?


2. Joe started to laugh. He said, ‘Oh, women. How you love each other, don’t you?’ (102).

To what extent do you feel that the female relationships within the novel – Ethel, Laurie, Maudie, Hester - are based on competition and resentment? Is Anna excluded or included in this because of her youth – and does she include or exclude herself? To what extent are the female relationships she cultivates in England contrasted with her relationship with Francine?


3. She went away and I shut my eyes. I didn’t want to see what she was doing. When I felt her standing near me again I said, ‘If I can’t bear it, if I ask you to stop, will you stop?’ (150).

Why do you think Rhys chose to end the novel with this unanswered question? Does this question resonate within her other relationships? How does Anna becoming pregnant relate to her ability to control her own life in contrast to the power others hold over her? Do you think it is significant that Anna does not have an answer to this question?


4. I walked straight ahead. I thought ‘Anywhere will do, as long as it’s somewhere that nobody knows.’ (86)

What is the impact of Anna’s frequent changes in address, and her frequent occupations of other people’s spaces and rooms? Why might she want ‘somewhere that nobody knows?’ Why might Rhys foreground her choices to stay inside, in contrast with her remembrances of her well-travelled history? What is the significance of the West Indies, as a place Anna inhabits, in contrast to the places she inhabits in England?