Directed Readings in the Literature of a Modern South Asian Language
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- Full Year
This course enables students to gain a deep knowledge and understanding of a particular genre or period of literary production through close, supervised reading of selected texts in a modern South Asian language. The languages available, and their teachers, are:
- Bengali: John Stevens
- Gujarati: Rachel Dwyer
- Hindi: Francesca Orsini
- Nepali: Michael Hutt
- Urdu: Amina Yaqin (on sabbatical 2013/14); James Caron
The texts studied are chosen in consultation with the students: as a result, students have the opportunity to study genres and period that may be of particular interest to them. Further details on the course can be found under Syllabus and Learning Outcomes.
PrerequisitesStudents must have at least an intermediate level understanding of the language concerned, equivalent to that achieved at the end of Bengali Language 2, Hindi Language 2, Nepali Language 2, Urdu Language 2, or equivalent proficiency in Gujarati or Tamil.
Objectives and learning outcomes of the course
This course is designed to give the student a thorough grounding in one or more genres of literature in a modern South Asian language. The small numbers of students make it possible for the course to be moulded to specific interests in any given year, but in all cases there is a focus on close reading of the selected genre. In a move away from the over-elaborate division of course options into discrete modules, we now offer a simpler and more transparent system wherein a student will elect to study either the modern (20th century) literature of the chosen language, or its 19th century literature, or its medieval literature.
The intellectual focus of the course is an analysis of how a literary text is constituted; we look at questions of style and composition in order to identify the particularities of a given genre or author and to assess the specific character of the writing concerned. This necessarily entails some study of the broader social and cultural context, but the main focus remains closely text-based. We have found that students appreciate the depth of analysis that such a tight focus allows.
The course consists of 20 weeks teaching over terms 1 and 2, with a 1.5 hour seminar each week.
Scope and syllabus
The aim of the course is to enable students to make sound assessments of the character of literary texts, and to develop an understanding of the place of these texts in their social and cultural setting. In many cases, especially when the literature being studied is from the pre-modern ('medieval') period, the learning outcomes will include the knowledge of a dialect (and a set of literary conventions) quite different from the modern standard language which is a pre-requisite for students enrolling on the course.
The course in any given year will be in either modern (20th century) literature or 19th century literature or medieval literature. Teaching will be text-based: students will read some parts of the texts with their teachers, but work through other sections on their own. Secondary literature in English on the religious, social, historical or political background will also be read. There is scope for concentrating on a particular genre - lyric poetry, epic, prose fiction, drama, autobiography etc. - according to the interest of the student.
Method of assessment
Assessment is conducted through two 5,000 word essays, due on day 1 of term 2 and day 1 of term 3. Each essay is worth 50% of the marks for the course.