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Literature and the World

In this course, we will address the question "What is sexuality" by reading some of the many books that have shaped our current ideas of the subject. These books will range across chronologies, cultures, and disciplines, starting with classical and medieval Indic texts -- the Kamasutra, Sufi poetry -- to ancient Greek and Roman classics -- the Symposium, the Metamorphoses. We will also read philosophical texts like the Discourse on Method, biological texts like The Origin of Species, psychoanalytical texts like The Interpretation of Dreams, and literary texts like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Together, these "great books" will allow us to trace threads that have gone into our current ways of thinking about sexuality.

Semester: Monsoon 2024 and Spring 2025

Literature is an art of storytelling. But can storytelling bring about revolutions? Is it possible for stories to stand up against colonial abuse, fight prejudices, bring social change, impact public policy? In this course, we will talk about stories that did exactly that and did it so spectacularly that generations have remained in awe of them. We will read novels, short stories, memoirs and essays to discover that each of these works of art were responsible for protesting against the injustices of their times. And in doing so, they highlighted and gave voice to the wrongs and discriminations of today. At the heart of each of these stories, we will encounter a fierce rejection of dogma and a stubborn insistence to speak out.

 

Semester: Monsoon 2024

What is liberal arts education? Is it identified with particular subjects, or a certain style of teaching and learning? This course will offer an introduction to liberal arts education as it might be practiced in a literature classroom for non-specialists, including students who may major in any subject at Ashoka – be it literature, economics, or biology. Our focus will be on English as a world language, and particularly one of global literature. How did the British Empire shape a global terrain of colonial modernity? How did that modernity merge with Anglo-American globalization of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? How did this create the English-speaking and English-reading worlds, and how did it turn English into a language of world literature? We will examine the transnational trajectory of this diverse and diffuse body of writing, including work from spaces with vastly different histories – the colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia, and the hard-to-classify context of South Africa.

Faculty Name: S Satish Kumar

Semester: Monsoon 2024

“Often defined as the totality of all things in existence, the “world” as a category and as a concept is unique within histories of human thought. For example, in contexts such as “World Affairs,” “World Commerce,” or “World Literature,” we encounter the “world” almost as an adjective that points to a sense of vastness or universality. This sense of immensity is also conveyed in expressions like such and such or so and so, “means the world to me.” Such a usage relates to yet another sense in which one may understand the “world,” and that is as a horizon or locus of one’s individual and shared perceptions and experiences. Extending from such a personal sense of the word and contrary to universality or immensity, an expression like, “You and I come from very different worlds,” expresses a seeming incommensurability across individual and subjective experiences.

In this course we will be working towards understanding this unique and exceptional elasticity of the “world” as an idea or a concept, and as a lived reality through its representations in literature. We will be reading a wide sampling of texts such as Banarasidas’ Ardhakathanak, Albert Camus’ The Outsider, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s Me Grandad ‘ad an Elephant. As we encounter and navigate these fictive and literary worlds, we will also be reflecting on ways in which we understand our place and the place of others in the world(s) that we live in”.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka

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