ENG369H1S - L0101

South Asian Literature


Tuesday 10 am - 12 pm

Thursday 10 am - 11 pm


Prof R. Soni

E-mail: raji.soni@utoronto.ca

Brief Description of Course 

“Just as the ‘causes’ of Partition were many, its effects are myriad and lingering; indeed they are constitutive (in acknowledged or in repressed ways) of family, community and public life on the subcontinent” — Suvir Kaul, The Partitions of Memory

When thinking in the humanities classroom about the vast region we call South Asia, readers inevitably focus on manifold divisions that continue to stratify its societies: divisions between nation-states; between those who can claim citizenship and those rendered stateless; between religious communities; between castes and classes; between sexes and genders; and between languages. Of course, the Partition of India in 1947, during which fourteen million refugees crossed between India and Pakistan and at least one million refugees perished, is a crucial basis (among others) for reading about South Asia in English literary studies. Yet, the region’s subsequent histories of partitioning also command our attention: e.g., case studies of often state-sponsored “communal violence” in India and Pakistan since 1947; the geopolitics of Kashmir; the war of independence that saw East Pakistan erupt into Bangladesh in 1971; and Sri Lanka’s civil war (1983-2009). Focusing on these societies and their histories, our course will consider how scholars, novelists, and filmmakers—ranging from Veena Das, Gauri Viswanathan, Neilesh Bose, Ben Baer, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak to Bapsi Sidhwa, Deepa Mehta, Nadeem Aslam, Amitav Ghosh, Jaspreet Singh, Shonali Bose, Nandita Das, Shehan Karunatilaka or Shyam Selvadurai (TBD), and Mahasweta Devi—encounter, represent, and challenge the region’s partitions from 1947 to present times. Looking closely at how the novel continues to transform via its colonial, postcolonial, neocolonial, and diasporic milieus, we will study how social issues such as citizenship, law, violence, impunity, and justice factor into multiple partitions whose effects continue to shape Pakistan, India, Kashmir, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

Required Reading(s)

Documentary coverage of Partition; articles/chapters by Veena Das, Gauri Viswanathan, Neilesh Bose, Ben Baer, Vidya Venkat, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak; Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India; Deepa Mehta, dir., Earth; Nadeem Aslam, The Golden Legend; Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines and “The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi”; documentary coverage of November 1984 in Delhi and its aftermaths; possibly further selections from Veena Das’s Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary; Jaspreet Singh, Helium and “Thomas Bernhard in New Delhi”; Shonali Bose, dir., Amu; documentary coverage of February-March 2002 in Gujarat and its aftermath; Nandita Das, dir., Firaaq; either Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida or Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy (TBD); Mahasweta Devi, “Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha” from Imaginary Maps.

First Three Authors/Texts

Documentary coverage of Partition; Veena Das, “The Event and the Everyday” and “The Figure of the Abducted Woman: The Citizen as Sexed” from Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary; Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India.

Method of Evaluation

  • (Tentative until syllabus is posted to Quercus) close reading test or close reading assignment (TBD)
  • Collaborative perspectives assignment (group-based exercise that involves sharing your insights with the class)
  • Midterm test
  • Final project
  • Final exam.