Monday, December 15, 2014

The South Asian Literature Final Exam

This afternoon, my South Asian Literature students did the final examination. I drafted the questions last night, after a two day struggle as I noted in my previous blog post. Looking at these questions, neither I nor anyone else, I suppose, can believe that it took me a rather long time to create them. For two days, my mind was simply unable to do what I desired.

Eventually, I created three questions, from which the students were required to answer two. I am willing to present the questions here, for whatever they are worth:

1) Discuss the situation of the Parsees in Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters and how they deal with it.

2) Discuss one of the characters in Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters.

3) Discuss the relationship between any two characters in Romesh Gunesekera's Reef.

Certainly, I could have created a question dealing with narrative techniques or artistry in general. However, considering that the class comprises students of different disciplines, spanning the spectrum from mathematics to exercise science, I decided to ask questions that would be fair to everyone. If this was a class of only English majors, I would create at least one question on the artistic dimension of the literary works.

With the teaching and the final examination over, I am bracing myself for grading the answer scripts, a task that can be full of surprises but is always interesting and refreshing. One of the surprises is simply that a student majoring in, say, biology or economics might be the one with the best performance in an examination like this one, which, according to conventional wisdom, is outside that student's field. In a liberal arts college such St. Olaf, however, such surprises are not uncommon. That, at least, has been my experience.

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