Saturday, September 12, 2015

Teaching South Asian Literature Again

We have just begun the fall semester, here at St. Olaf College. I am teaching two courses: First Year Writing and South Asian Literature. I just want to say a word about the Literature course.

Having included various South Asian writers regularly in my Post-colonial Literature course, I moved into teaching South Asian Literature rather easily. Year after year, I have developed a broader and deeper understanding of the literature and cultures of this region. Therefore, I have been eager to teach new texts, confident that I can situate them in the context of the tradition they spring from and participate in.

This semester, I have chosen to use texts I have neither read nor taught before. These are The Artist of Disappearance, by Anita Desai; Noontide Toll, by Romesh Gunesekera; The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri; Jasmine, by Bharati Mukherjee; The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje; and Water, by Bapsi Sidhwa.

Unlike in the past, I have decided to focus on contemporary writers. I will, of course, be making references to the long tradition going back to the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and other Sanscritic texts, incorporating well known literary giants like Rabindranath Tagore, Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao, R.K. Narayan, and more recent ones like Anita Desai and Salman Rushdie.

As always, since the field of South Asian Literature is so vast and ever-changing--like any other regional literary tradition--I am going to be asking myself why I have chosen particular authors and not others, why particular texts and not others. Nevertheless, I look forward to a memorable learning experience, for my students and me.

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