Other links:

Other links:

MLS Programme in English

Towards the end of the Young India Fellowship (YIF), students can apply for a Master’s in Liberal Arts (MLS). The students that choose to apply for an MLS degree must declare their concentration as part of the application process. 

MLS students who are working towards an English concentration have to:

  • Take 4 English courses across the year
  • Fulfill the role of Teaching Assistant for 2 English courses
  • Pursue Research Assistantships with English Professors for both semesters

While managing the above responsibilities, students must also work on their Master’s dissertation. 

Owing to the interdisciplinary vision of Ashoka, the MLS students essentially curate their own academic journey over the course of one year. Over the years, MLS students have also committed to completing a cross-disciplinary concentration.  

Listed below are some of the rigorous and intellectually provoking theses that students have produced at the end of their programme.

  • Shivangi Jalan

    The polysemic nature of cinema ensures that the project of meaning-making is not confined to the filmmaker or the film’s production team. It also includes the audience, who can read against the grain of what filmmakers believe their work to be saying. The ways in which a film can become enmeshed in acts of counter-intuitive reading – acts that not only depart from its makers’ intentions but also create entire communities united in their counter-readings of the film – pose questions about film as a medium, the polysemy of the cinematic image, the nature of interpretation and the limitations of singular narratives. My thesis, titled “Filmic Polysemy: The Many Meanings of Padmaavat,” explores these questions, focusing in particular on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial 2018 film Padmaavat.

    Padmaavat’s trajectory, through being interpreted as a Hindu-derogatory film to an Islamophobic and homophobic film, demonstrates how a film can problematise the very ideology it is supposed to be enmeshed in. Rather than attempting to reveal that one true meaning that seems to have been lost under the weight of different ideologies, I argue that Padmaavat contains within itself a wealth of coded meanings that require multiple interpretations. Some of the themes I touch upon in my readings of the film are queer desire, filmic polysemy and historical multiplicity. Through my research, I want to draw attention to Padmaavat’s refusal to settle in any ideologically pure system of meaning and what implications that has on our understanding of singularity and accuracy.

  • Rashi Maheshwari

    Public space is seen as unsafe and laden with dangers while private space provides a safe, sheltered place to women, far removed from the malice of the world. However, home is often a place that imprisons women and shackles them to oppressive traditions. This socio-political reality finds little mention in popular culture. Cinema and television create and propagate a narrative that misrepresents women and their experiences in public and private spaces. Given the enormous influence of the media, the perception of women’s movement across spaces becomes mired in stereotypes.

    In my thesis, “The Public and the Private: Reading Gender and Spaces through Bombay Cinema,” I explore how Bombay cinema—laden with ideologies that subtly seep into our minds—shapes our thoughts, behaviours, and experiences. I use films as a significant archive for thinking about space(s)—how people’s experience of the public and the private is ascribable to their identity. I study a wave of new-age films that are paving the way for showcasing women (and spaces) differently and thus, beginning the slow intertwined process of changing consciousness and society.

  • Shaurya Oberoi

    “Shifting Places: Reading Gaiman Reading Shakespeare” is an examination of theories and practices of reading: what does it mean to read, what positions do the text and reader occupy in reading, and how might one formulate new ways of reading? Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel, The Sandman, among its many other projects, reads and reimagines both the person of William Shakespeare and his two comedies: The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and in the process it enacts, what I call, an anamorphic reading. Anamorphic reading, as I contend in the essay, is a way of reading that constantly contends the position of the text and reader, without letting either of the two rest on stable ground.

    In the two chapters, I look at two specific problematics of linear time and ordered space. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is seemingly founded on the exclusivity of the lawful city and the dreamlike forest, one functioning as the perfected version of the other. The Sandman, however, investigates structural resonances that permeate across such boundaries. By presenting the fairies as the audience in the first ever staging of the play, Gaiman signals towards a spatial rupture, as well as a temporal one that militates against the final burial of the pagan past enacted by Christianity. Reading The Tempest, on the other hand, The Sandman riffs on the spatial tensions that motivate both the play and its subsequent scholarship, prizing noise over fixed and precise meaning as the condition of creative potential. Through my essay, I argue that Gaiman’s reading of these complexities not only creates new worlds but brings to light the tensions that already animate Shakespeare’s plays, thereby unsettling and transforming both the reader and text.

  • Tarushi Sonthalia

    My thesis “A Matter of Time(s), A Matter of Silence(s)” works to interrogate naturalized assumptions of linear temporality that fundamentally shape our existence. It suggests that linear time is a tool for the furtherance and maintenance of capitalism and patriarchy, both of which benefit from the “onward march of progress” baked into any conception of linear temporality. Conveniently, for both these modes of social oppression, in order to ensure a move into a “glorious future,” linear temporality requires that the past, especially past trauma, be left behind and the present serve as a mere gateway to the future. With no one left to (allowed to) remember and to remind, a suffocating silence becomes the norm, making resistance to the injustices of capitalism and patriarchy an increasingly difficult task.

    By drawing on an archive consisting of the works of novelist Shashi Deshpande, my own life, and my mother’s memories, my thesis suggests that a conception of time as asynchronous—that is, as being characterized by the simultaneity of the past, present, and future—would not only be more closely aligned with our everyday experiences of temporality, but would also make space for the breaking of long-held and painful silences.

  • Ayesha Verma

    Lutf hai konsi kahaani mein

    Aap beeti kahuun ki jag beeti

    (Which story yields more pleasure we shall see/

    Of the happenings in the world or my autobiography)

          – Umrao Jaan Ada

    The figure of the courtesan, better known in Awadhi Urdu as the tawa’if, witnessed a rapid devaluation through the late 19th and early 20th centuries. What now remains is a homogenized system of prostitution entangled in complicated legalities, an absence of human rights and a dearth of knowledge about what once was. Throughout this period of decline, the tawa’if’s body has been imagined, written about, spoken of, and enacted within various narrative forms, most of them patriarchally tinged. Using Mirza Hadi Ruzwa’s novel, Umrao Jaan Ada, and its various reimaginings in literature and film, my thesis, titled “Embodying Umrao Jaan Ada: The Courtesan in Literature, Cinema and Theory” interprets the many layers of perception surrounding the tawa’if and her body in colonial and post-independence India.

    Needless to say, my MLS experience was as interdisciplinary as my thesis, made effortlessly possible due to Ashoka University’s emphasis on the same. I was working with the Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality and the Department of English formally, simultaneously receiving much support from the Department of Media Studies and History.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka