Monday, November 17, 2014

Update on my South Asian Literature Course

My plan for the South Asian Literature course this semester has undergone some changes. After teaching Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable, we moved on to Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi. However, hardly had we gone beyond the half-way point than my health, which has been uncertain for many months, deteriorated, and I had to be hospitalized again, at the Abbot Northwest Hospital in Minneapolis.

Fortunately, after slightly over a week, I was released. During my absence, an English Department colleague graciously stepped in and taught Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost. When I heard that she was teaching this novel, I was delighted, having taught it myself several years ago, as part of the South Asian Literature course.

Upon resuming my teaching of the course, a week ago, we started reading Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters. When I was choosing texts to use this semester, I made a point of including Sidhwa, largely because I wanted some example of writing from a Pakistani writer. Having taught The Crow Eaters before, as well as Sidhwa's other novel, Cracking India, I knew that Sidhwa's writing is accessible to undergraduate students.

We are approaching the midway point of this novel now. Then, we will read Romesh Gunesekera's Reef, another novel I have taught before. Like Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, Reef affords memorable insights, from a fictional point of view, into the Sri Lankan experience.

Time seems to have gone by very fast, and I know we will not be able to read Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown. What a pity. In the future, I plan to change my strategy: I will use Rushdie's novel early in the semester, to ensure that my students have some experience of reading and reflecting on this very gifted, albeit controversial writer. I also doubt if I will be able to introduce any poetry, although I prepared myself to teach some poems from that part of the world, such as Michael Ondaatje's.

Though I have some regrets, I take solace from the fact that by the end of the semester, my students will have a fairly good idea of South Asian Literature, a tradition that, rich and vibrant as it is, appears rather remote to many people.

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