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English Programme

The guiding assumption of the English major at Ashoka University is that we all like to travel. Even when we are beset by bad weather, dangerous beasts, and visa problems, we like to travel and see new worlds. Some of these worlds might be frightening; many might involve thinking thoughts that we never have before; a few will allow us to recognise ideas that we have had all our lives. Nothing facilitates these journeys better than literature. Whether it is by reading books written by unfamiliar authors or thinking through the intricacies of an idea, literature challenges our minds to expand, grow, travel. All literature involves an imaginative movement outside the bounds of the familiar. 

 

We will map such movements across genre – theory, fiction, poetry, drama, film – cultures, and languages. Literatures in translation will be a vital component of our curriculum as we seek to put in conversation texts that have been divided by boundaries of various kinds.

 

English at Ashoka will take seriously knowledge of both canonical Western texts like Ovid's Metamorphoses, Shakespeare’s plays, and Woolf's novels, Indian texts like Ismat Chughtai’s short stories, Amruta Patil's graphic novels, and Satyajit Ray's films, as well as world classics like A Thousand and One Nights, Greek tragedies, and Audre Lorde's poetry. The English Major and Minor at Ashoka will put disciplines in dynamic dialogue with each other, ensuring both specific knowledges and a more general ability to think. 

 

Traditional courses like "Forms of Literature" will be studied in tandem with cutting-edge courses on "Digital Humanities" for a wide exposure to different genres. We will have an emphasis on Postcolonial Literatures as well as on Global Literatures in Translation. With every such grouping, we will have multiple course offerings from among which students can choose. Our aim is to be globally literate while also taking cognizance of our rootedness in India. This wide range of courses will prepare the Ashoka English graduate for a variety of careers in higher education, the law, advertising, and any field that requires an agile mind able to traverse across borders.

Curriculum Requirements
Requirements for a Pure Major in English

A student must complete 12 courses to earn a pure major in English. The break up of courses is as follows:

 

  • 2 Gateway Courses
    • Forms of Literature
    • Introduction to Literary Theory
  • 3 Survey Courses
    • Early British Literature
    • Literature in the Age of Empire
    • Postcolonial Literature
  • 7 Electives Offered by the English Department (or cross-listed with English)

At least 4 of these electives must be 300-level seminars. Postcolonial Literature is a core course and will NOT count towards the elective requirements.

Requirements for an Interdisciplinary Major in English and Media Studies 

A student must complete 16 courses (10 English and 6 Media courses) to earn an interdisciplinary major in English and Media Studies. The break up of courses is as follows:

 

  • 2 Gateway Courses
    • Forms of Literature
    • Introduction to Literary Theory
  • 2 of the 3 Survey Courses
    • Early British Literature
    • Literature in the Age of Empire
    • Postcolonial Literature
  • 6 Electives Offered by the English Department (or cross-listed with English)

A student majoring in English and Media Studies must complete a minimum of 3 300-level seminars. Postcolonial Literature is a core course and will NOT count towards the elective requirements.

  • 6 Media Courses
Requirements for an Interdisciplinary Major in English and Creative Writing

To complete an interdisciplinary major in English and Creative Writing, a student must do 16 courses-- 11 English and 5 Creative Writing courses. The break up of courses is as follows:

 

  • 2 Gateway Courses
    • Forms of Literature
    • Introduction to Literary Theory
  • 3 Survey Courses
    • Early British Literature
    • Literature in the Age of Empire
    • Postcolonial Literature
  • 6 Electives Offered by the English Department (or cross-listed with English)

At least 4 of the electives must be 300-level seminars. Postcolonial Literature is a core course and will NOT count towards the elective requirements of 4 300-level seminars.

  • 5 Creative Writing Courses
    • Introduction to Creative Writing (Gateway course for Creative Writing)
    • The Craft of Writing
    • 2 Single-Genre Workshops
    • Thesis Hours (4 credits)
      • A thesis along with a critical introduction
Requirements for a Minor in English

To complete a minor in English, a student must do 6 courses. The break up of courses is as follows:

 

  • 2 Gateway Courses
    • Forms of Literature
    • Introduction to Literary Theory
  • 1 of the 3 Survey Courses
    • Early British Literature
    • Literature in the Age of Empire
    • Postcolonial Literature
  • 3 Electives Offered by the English Department (or cross-listed with English)

A student minoring in English must complete a minimum of 2 300-level seminars. Postcolonial Literature will NOT count as one of these courses.

Requirements for a Concentration in English

To complete a concentration in English, a student must do 4 courses. The break up of courses is as follows:

 

  • 1 of the 2 Gateway Courses
    • Forms of Literature
    • Introduction to Literary Theory
  • Any 3 Courses Offered by the English Department (or cross-listed with English)
Requirements for an Advanced Major in English (+1 year/ASP)

The Advanced Major requires an additional 4 courses i.e. 16 credits which are to be completed during the +1 year. Of these, 8 credits must be the Pro-Seminar (4 in the Monsoon, 4 in the Spring semester). The remaining 8 credits may be completed through upper level electives or TAships.

 

Please note:

No more than one Critical Thinking Seminar (CTS) cross-listed with English may count towards a student’s major requirements.

 

Core Courses

In addition to the courses and descriptions listed below, the English department will also offer seminars in subjects like Travel Writing, Women’s Writing, Studies in Sexuality, Renaissance Drama and British Modernism.

 

Introduction to English: Forms of Literature
This course will introduce English majors to the most important genres in English literature. These will range from the classical genres of poetry, prose and drama to the more recent developments in literary theory and new media. Students will receive an overview of the most important developments in genre over the last 2000 years, starting with Aristotle and culminating in hypertext.

 

Introduction to Literary Theory
An intensive immersion in literary method, this course will complement the class on literary genre. Looking at how texts ask questions, and the assumptions that go into any discussion of life and literature, we will also examine what the most important of these questions have been over the last hundred years, and how theorists like Freud, Derrida, and Spivak, among others, have addressed them.

 

Early British Literature: 900-1660
Plotting the development of the literature of the British Isles over the centuries, this course will begin with the anonymous text of Beowulf. Moving across important texts and movements through medieval and Renaissance literature to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, this course will immerse students in the early history of British literature.

 

American Literature
From the beginnings of American literature in slave narratives and religious sermons to the current work of poets like Robert Lowell and graphic novelists like Alison Bechdel, this course will give students an overview of various modes and genres that have been explored in North America and Canada from the middle of the 18th century to the present.

 

Literature and Empire: 1660-1947
Starting with the consolidation of the East India Company in the 17th century, this course will examine the wide variety of pamphlets, travel narratives, poems, novels, and prose fictions that pivot on the idea of empire and travel, from Aphra Behn’s Oronooko to E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Moving across countries and centuries, this course will study literary and social formations that continue to affect us to this day.

 

The Novel
Perhaps the single-biggest literary development of the last 300 years has been the rise of the novel. Tied to the rise of literacy, industrialisation and globalisation, the novel is a polysemous genre that continues to be the most widely-read form of literature today. This course will look at the rise of the novel, its development through realism, modernism, post-modernism, magical realism and the postcolonial novel.

 

Indian Literatures in English
Staring in the 1980s with Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Indian literature in English burst upon the global scene. But Indian literature had already been popular in the earlier parts of the century, from Rabindranath Tagore and Mulk Raj Anand to R.K. Narayan. This course will trace the link from Tagore to Rushdie, A. K. Ramanujam to Nissim Ezekiel and Mahasweta Devi to Arundhati Roy to build a genealogy of Indian literatures in English.

 

Indian Literatures in Translation
A rich tradition of Indian vernacular literatures is now available in English and allows us to compare Indian literature in English with demotic traditions. From the short stories of Munshi Premchand and Saadat Hasan Manto to the writings of Amrita Pritam and Vijaydan Detha, this course will round-out a student’s immersion in Indian literature.

 

Postcolonial Literatures
Expanding the canvas of literature to post-colonial productions of novels, poems and drama, this course will study Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone literatures from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. From magical realism to existential drama, students will cover rich traditions of literature have been written in response to the conditions of colonialism and post-colonialism.

 

Global Literatures in Translation
From Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past to Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, global literatures of pivotal importance to an understanding of literature have been translated into English. This course will think about the theory and practice of translation as well as study a selection of translated texts from around the world.

 

Global Cinema
With the spectacular growth of national cinemas in all parts of the world – India, Iran, Egypt, Germany, France, New Zealand – global cinema has become a major source for the dissemination of imaginative ideas in different languages. This course will study comparative traditions of film-making and think about the socio-cultural and filmic languages encoded in these productions.

 

Advanced Critical Theory
In many ways the capstone course of the English major, advanced critical theory will focus on any one aspect of theory as it has developed over the last 100 years.

Topics may include New Media Theory, Psychoanalysis, Marxism, Deconstruction, New Historicism and Queer Theory.

Faculty
Foundation Courses

Literature and the World

This course poses questions about how literature has diversely imagined the world, and how the world has diversely imagined literature.  What does it mean to tell a story about a specific place?  How does one’s own place affect the stories one tells?  How are we all story-tellers who reimagine other stories?  And how is the act of reading always itself an act of story-telling (or re-telling)?  This semester, we will look at how Shakespeare reimagined stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Alf Layla wa Layla (A Thousand and One Nights) and how, in turn, his stories have been reimagined by novelists from Sudan, playwrights from Martinique, graphic novelists from England, and film-makers from India.

Taught by: Jonathan Gil Harris

 

Great Books

The books in the Great Books course will come from different cultures, different time periods, different languages, and different subjects. But they all have something significant to offer us as we think about the world today. The curriculum and themes will vary between sections, but readings will include influential books such as the Kama Sutra, the Mahabharata, Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and Darwin’s The Origin of Species, among others.  This semester, Professor Menon’s course will focus on Great Books in the history of sexuality; Professor Mukherjee’s course will focus on Great Books in the history of thinking about the state.

Taught by: Madhavi Menon

English Programme