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Seminar Questions

Week 2: Safiyaa/ Week 3: Desiree/ Week 4: Anais/ Week 5: Hettie/ Week 7: Percy/ Week 8: Anoushka/ Week 9: Ella/Week 10: Ella/Abigail

Week 10 (Ella and Abigail)


How does photography compare to literary texts in terms of showcasing the changes and destruction of the Indian-Ocean, as well as our larger environment? Is photography more or less effective in showing us the realities of environmental destruction? What are the benefits of using photography to document changes in our environments and landscapes?

Week 9 (Anoushka)

  1. “Time itself is being, he wrote, and all being is time” Ozeki, pg. 30. Time is almost described as a process, something that will never truly finish and can continuously be revived. How does this reflect the immortality of the Indian Ocean and its recurring role throughout history and literature to connect narratives that would otherwise be left untold?
  2. How could an eco-critical reading of the book be applied as a form of commentary on climate change? Could this also comment on the tense political climates seen between Japan and the USA during WW2?

Week 8 (Anoushka)

  1. How does the novel treat time as a non-linear narrative device through which the world can be looked at?
  2. What nuances does having a 16-year-old girl as a primary protagonist bring to the overall narrative as well as our understanding of globalisation?

Week 7 (Percy)

1. The Dragonfly Sea’ depicts language and naming as enriching – Muhidin tells Ayaana that to savour a being’s essence you must speak its name in three languages – yet also restricting and oppressive. How does this contrast speak to the wider ambivalence towards cosmopolitanism within the novel?

Week 5 (Hettie)

  1. In "Reef," the ocean represents a source of both beauty (with Gunesekera describing beautiful marine scenes) and danger (constantly referring to death and fear in regard to the reef) . How does this duality of the ocean mirror the duality of the characters' lives and the conflicts they face?
  2. The novel explores the tensions between tradition and modernity, both on an individual and societal level. How does the Indian Ocean, with its rich history, represent this clash of values and ways of life in the story?
  3. How does the dynamic between Triton and Mr. Salgado evolve throughout the course of the novel 'Reef'? What does their relationship reveal about themes of mentorship, cultural identity, and the impact of external conflicts on their complex relationship?"

Week 4 (Anais)

1. How do you feel the influence of British Imperialism impacted both Saleh and Latif ? How if their experience different ?2. Stories, historical facts and memories make a significant part of the novel, how do they help us understand the characters better ?

Week 3 (Desiree)

1. Looking at the destructive force potential of the weather which is known to leave behind a path of devastation among the surrounding territories, they are spared the worst of the typhoon. The ship survives the worst of the storm but glosses over the second half of the storm which hit after the episode of calm we see at the end of the novella.
Are there any possible correlations to glossed-over/erased events that happened at the time?
2. Moreover, to what degree does the violence outbreaks among the Chinese workers fit into this idea of the crew traversing such unforgiving and foreign territories practically unscathed?

Week 2 (Safiyaa Nawab)

  1. In what ways is the Indian Ocean portrayed as a "zone of universalisms"? (Hofmeyer, 585).
  2. "Within the Western historiographical record, the unarmed character of the Indian Ocean trade is often represented as a lack, or failure, one that invited the intervention of Europe, with its increasing proficiency in war" (Ghosh, 95). Discuss the novel as a criticism of previous archives of the Indian Ocean, specifically how these records undermine the Indian Ocean in favour of positing European imperialism as the agent of modernity and civilisation.
  3. Discuss how past and present are compared in the novel.

Seminar Preparation

Use of technology in the classroom: The use of any device to access the web and/or social media is not allowed, except when (very occasionally) it is part of the seminar discussion. Please remember to switch off your phones and devices when you enter the seminar, with the exception of the device you need to take notes or consult course-related material.

Attendance: Attendance at each seminar is mandatory. If for some reason you need to miss a seminar, please do email me *before* the seminar so your absence can be excused. If this becomes a pattern, you will need to supply a doctor’s note or some other form of evidence to explain your absence.

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 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 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 3-4 questions based on the readings for the week and present them to the group.

Please send me your questions latest by Tuesday, 5 pm. They will be uploaded on the website before the seminar. You are welcome to work in pairs or groups.

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. Also, while individual opinions matter, and they matter a lot on this module, try and focus the discussion on the problems the texts raise.

Some tips:

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

Choose a passage in any of the readings that you find rich and enigmatic. What about it can open up discussion on the topic for the week?

Is there anything outside the course that has come to your attention and that raises important questions connected to the module?

I look forward to our discussions!