Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Teaching South Asian Literature Again

The St. Olaf College Fall semester started a week ago, on September 4. I am teaching two courses: Writing and South Asian Literature. I wish to say a few things about the South Asian Literature course, which I taught for the first time in the Spring of 2011, as I reported on this blog.

I am using Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable, Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi, Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters, and Romesh Gunesekera's Reef. For the first time, I am using Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown, a work I had not read before but am reading now, in preparation for teaching it later in the semester.

I was eager to include a Rushdie work after teaching his Midnight's Children and finding it both intriguing and interesting, on account of its narrative techniques--which are somewhat complex and confusing--its historical, cultural and religious references and allusions, as well as its style of presenting characters.

I wanted to teach this novel, prompted by, and regretting, the fact that I had not read it. I felt ashamed of myself for not having read this famous literary work, even though I know there are dozens of other famous works I will not be able to read. Sadly, one can only do so much in a lifetime.

One thing I would really like to do is include some poetry, as I told my students today. I hope we will have a few days at the end of the semester to read some poems. Currently, I am reading The Cinnamon Peeler, a collection of poems by Michael Ondaatje, both for my own education and also in order to prepare a selection of poems I can use when or if the opportunity arises. I plan to complement any poems I might choose from this collection with poems from other sources.

Overall, the semester has started well, and I am looking forward to a rich learning experience for my students and me.

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