SOAS University of London

South Asia Department

South Asian Literature in English

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1
This module examines literary dynamics of modern South Asian writing as manifested in novels, short stories and poetry written in English. It covers a wide range of themes, from cultural production to gender politics, from national identity to the aesthetics of imagined community and citizenship, from urban ethics to diasporic crisis. Some attention will be paid to critical theoretical concepts from postcolonial literary theory. It is designed for students with a prior background in literature and with some basic knowledge of the South Asian region.

Student Profile

Olivia Majumdar

The SALE module was a fantastic opportunity to explore different kinds of literature, ranging from short stories to poetry to novels, from a variety of regions in South Asia. It helped me to develop a critical framework through which to dissect and analyse literature as well as become more confident at tackling literary and cultural theory. The diversity of the materials studied and liveliness of the classroom discussion meant it was always one of the highlights of my week at SOAS.

Olivia Majumdar

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will acquire;

  1. An advanced knowledge of distinctive literary strategies and devices deployed in South Asian literature in English;
  2. A critical understanding of South Asian literary texts in their appropriate historical and cultural contexts;
  3. An understanding of key critical (postcolonial) and theoretical approaches applied to these writings;
  4. The ability to produce critical accounts of the literature, paying appropriate attention to both formal and contextual issues.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week: one hour lecture and one hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Rudyard Kipling, Selected Short Stories.
  2. Caste/Class in Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable.
  3. Borders and Trauma in Bapsi Sidhwa's Ice Candy Man.
  4. Sexual Violence in Shashi Deshpande's The Dark Holds no Terrors.
  5. Neoliberalism and the Indian Exotic in Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things.
  6. Queer Sexualities in Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy.
  7. Terror, exile and nostalgia in Agha Shahid Ali's The Country without a Postoffice.
  8. Framing Muslims in Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
  9. Memory, history, counter-narrative in Zia Haider Rahman's In the Light of What We Know

Method of assessment

Five reaction papers of 600 words each to be submitted throughout the teaching term (dates published on moodle) (50%); a 15 minute oral presentation (10%); an essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1 in the term after the module is taught (40%). 

Suggested reading

A reading list for this module will be given to students at the beginning of teaching.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules