Dr. Shobna Nijhawan Office hours:
Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics Tu/Th 1-2 and
Office: Ross S570 by appointment
Phone: (416) 736-2100 ext. 88725
AS/HND 3600 3.0 (Fall 2007)
South Asian Literary Activism:
Women Writers and Filmmakers in South Asia and the Diaspora
Wednesday 11.30-2.30, Ross S205
This course introduces students to literary expressions of women from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the South Asian diaspora. We begin with an investigation of the conditions under which women wrote in the early twentieth century through the writings of those women who “dared” participating in a male-dominated public sphere. We then discuss post-Independence women writers and filmmakers to explore how women use literary genres (including film) as forms of artistic expression and intervention in public politics. We discuss how women writers in the past and present day redefine their so-called traditional roles as wives, mothers and homemakers in the light of their responsibilities as subject-citizens of their respective nation states.
All readings are in English translations from different South Asian vernaculars (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi) or originally written in English. They include the genres of the essay, short story, autobiography, novel and poem. The language of instruction is English.
Course structure and requirements
The class meets once a week for three hours. The course involves formal lecturing followed by discussion and close reading of the class materials. There will be short group presentations on contemporary women writers, activists/movements and filmmakers.
Readings and Journal Entries: It is absolutely necessary that all students engage with the weekly reading assignments in order to participate in the class discussions. The reading load is reasonable and I expect every student to explore each text by means of close reading and write-ups before and after class. Four write-ups are mandatory and will result in a journal that counts 20% towards the final grade (please see the handouts with reading and annotation exercises as well as the guidelines for journal entries).
Presentations: There will be one group presentation, in which a selected topic will be introduced in 10-15 minutes (see list of topics and dates). The presentation shall not simply be read out from your notes; try to involve your classmates by making use of PowerPoint, the blackboard, an overhead projector or handouts. The presentation should conclude with a few questions to launch the discussion. You have to discuss the outline of the presentation with me at least five days prior to the class meeting so that I can provide feedback and suggestions (without this feedback you will not be able to present). The presentation counts 5% towards your final grade.
Midterm and Tests: The midterm (two hours) and two tests (one hour each) are conducted in class. You will be asked to respond to 3-5 questions pertaining to the readings and lectures.
Final paper: For the final paper (5 pages) you will be asked to analyze the work of a particular author, filmmaker or activist (individual or organization) in the light of the theoretical approaches learned in class, followed by an assessment of your own direct or indirect involvement in issues regarding South Asia, literature, activism and film. The final paper is due December 5, 2007.
The final grade will be calculated as follows
Attendance and Participation
(including the group presentation) 20%
2 tests 20%
4 Journal entries (5% each) 20%
Final paper 25%
1. Course Kit (available at the York University bookstore)
2. Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Sultana’s Dream and Selections from The Secluded Ones. Ed. and tr. Roushan Jahan, New York, The Feminist Press, 1997
All readings are in English. Original Hindi and Urdu texts are available upon request.
The most up-to-date information for the course including lecture notes, handouts and a discussion forum is accessible on WebCT (http://webct.yorku.ca).
Additional important course information for students is accessible via: http://www.yorku.ca/secretariat/senate/committees/ccas/documents/Course%20Outline%20-%20Student%20%20Info%20Sheet%20-%20March%2027-06.pdf
This course counts towards the degree requirements in Women’s Studies as well as the South Asian Studies Program.
Please note: the reading assignments are mostly primary sources from South Asian vernaculars (in English translation), available in the course kit. The further readings, mostly of theoretical nature, are recommended (especially for women’s studies students) and available on reserve at Scott Library or added to the course kit. These texts will also be covered in the lectures.
All readings are in English. The languages given in parentheses designate their original language. Original Hindi and Urdu texts are available upon request.
Week 1 September 5
Female Literary Activism: Is all Writing Political?
Reading Assignment (due next week): Mahadevi Varma (Hindi), Sarojini Naidu (English/Hindi), Kishwar Naheed (Urdu), Fahmida Riaz (Urdu), Sara Shagufta (Urdu), Zehra Nigah (Urdu), Saeeda Gazdar (Urdu)
Further Reading: Trinh T. Minh-ha (in course kit)
Week 2 September 12
“Minor” Literature, “Women’s” Literature or simply “Literature”? Poetry and Essays of Feminist Writers
Reading Assignment (due next week): From Pan on Fire (Marathi), Rokeya Sakavat Hossain (Sultana’s Dream, Bengali), Viramma (Tamil),
Further Reading: Roushan Jahan (pp.1-6 in Sultana’s Dream)
Week 3 September 19
Prose Fiction, Autobiography and the “Voice-Recovery Project”
Reading Assignment (due next week): Pandita Ramabai Saraswati (English/Marathi), Uma Chakravarti
Further Reading: Helene Cixous (in course kit), Joan Scott
Week 4 September 26
The “Authority” of Experience
(Re)-Writing History through Film and in Academia: The Plight of Widows and Water (selections)
Reading Assignment (due next week): Urvashi Butalia
Further Reading: Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (in course kit), Kamla Bhasin and Ritu Menon
Week 5 October 3
Testimonials of Partition: Social Workers and Bollywood remember (selections from
Pinjar [Skeleton] based on the novel Pinjar by Amrita Pritam (Punjabi/Hindi)
Reading Assignment (due next week): Read TWO of the following: Malathi de Alwis (Sri Lanka), Katy Gardner (Bangladesh), Amrita Basu (India), Suvechha Adhikari (Nepal)
Further Reading: Amrita Basu/Patricia Jeffery, Tanika Sarkar, Hanna Papanek (pp. 58-83 in Sultana’s Dream), Kamla Bhasin/Ritu Menon/Nighat Said Khan
Week 6 October 10
Feminism Inverted: Women’s Activism and Politicized Religion
Assignment: Prepare for the midterm
Week 7 October 17
Midterm (3 questions on the readings to-date)
Reading Assignment (due next week): Mahashweta Devi 2x (Bengali), Radha Kumar (pp.182-190), Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Further Reading: Amita Bhaviskar, Arundhati Roy
Week 8 October 24
Andolan: Women, Tribals and Environmental Activism in Literature and Film
Writing as a “Deshi Feminist”
Reading Assignment (due next week): Geraldine Forbes, Radha Kumar (pp.96-114)
Further Reading: Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ammu Joseph
Week 9 October 31
“South Asian Women” in Theory and Practice
Library workshop: “How to write a paper”
Discussing the final paper topics
Reading Assignment (due next week): Radha Kumar (pp.127-137), Anupama Niranjana (Kannada)
Further Reading: Radha Kumar
Assignment: Part 1 of final paper (to be turned in next week in class)
Week 10 November 7
Violence against Women
Reading Assignment (due next week): Watch one of the following movies: Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding, Bend it like Bekham, Baji on the Beach
Week 11 November 14
Diaspora Topics in Film: Gender and class in the movies of Gurinder Chadha and Mira Nair
Reading Assignment: Look up and “surf around” the following internet pages: http://www.wworld.org, http://www.sawnet.org/orgns/, http://www.sacw.net/, http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/india1-cn.htm, http://www.foundationsaarcwriters.com/writers_page.htm
Assignment: Part 2 of final paper
Week 12 November 21
The Virtual Women’ Movement: Literature and Activism on the World Wide Web (Part 1)
Week 13 November 28
The Virtual Women’ Movement: Literature and Activism on the World Wide Web (Part 2), class meets in the computer lab Ross S117
Presentation and discussion of paper topics
The Final Paper is due December 5, 2007
Presentations: There will be one presentation every week. For the topics please see the attached list. The topics may be modified according to your interest. They cover case studies of different South Asian countries, feminist periodicals, women’s internet representations, and analyzes of writers’ and filmmakers’ works. You are also welcome to present your personal involvement with women’s concerns
Final Paper: In your final paper (5 pages) you are asked to describe a problem of interpretation and analyze it, maybe argue for a particular interpretation and support that interpretation with “evidence” gathered from your primary sources. I will provide a selection of topics, from which you may choose. You will not need to consult sources other than the mandatory and recommended readings from the syllabus. Prior to submitting your final version, you will have to turn in your initial ideas and research on the topic. I will provide feedback at every stage.
Format: The midterm and final paper (5 pages) should be double-spaced, 12-point type, margins no wider than 1 1/4 inches and proofread. Be consistent in the style guide you choose. To credit materials from the Internet, use the library webpage on citing Internet resources: www.library.yorku.ca/ccm/Home/ResearchAndInstruction/CiteInternetResources.htm