"'In India he may begin a new life!' the Gentleman from Hamburg thundered, walking up and down with his hands under the tails of his new, striped coat." (Desai, Anita, Baumgartner's Bombay, New York: ... read more
"'In India he may begin a new life!' the Gentleman from Hamburg thundered, walking up and down with his hands under the tails of his new, striped coat." (Desai, Anita, Baumgartner's Bombay, New York: Mariner, 2000, p. 53.)
The theoretical anchors of the proposed course, as indicated in its title and the quotation above, seek to foreground the culturally-hybridised phenomena of intra- and inter-continental exchange through transnational fiction and the diasporic novel; more often than not, the authors of such novels are based in Europe or America but use Indian locales, myths, historical and fictive narratives and socio-cultural motifs-even someone born and raised abroad, like Sir Vidiadhar S. Naipaul-for their fiction. After the post-Enlightenment European national/imperial constellations established, primarily through colonialism and with different degrees of success and longevity, their hegemonic political and cultural sway in large parts of the non-Europhone world, significant literary-cultural mélanges occurred in the latter, arising not only through direct migration but also aspirational and lifestyle-hybridity; this led to not only the spatial expansion of Europhone societal and cultural normativities, but also to the crystallisation of various 'Western' approximations of 'Eastern' cultures and vice versa. The diasporic Indian(/-origin) novelists represent an important, even crucial facet of the Afro-Asian cultural response to the normative and prescriptive presumptions of colonialism; even without using the important and useful postcolonial analytical categories, one finds a keen non-monocultural, nuanced-hybrid rootedness in the novels and novelists of the Indian Diaspora, which does represent an attempt to explore the Indian societal prisms as alternative sites of multicultural coexistence, intercultural subjectivity and a renewed, if flawed, civility.
In this course, we will be studying, mandatorily, four representative Indian-diaspora-oriented either in authorship or thematic structure and content or both-novels and, also, a couple more, optionally; the attempt will be to theorise a possible literary-critical framework, which may be used to contextualise the texts within the broader geo-political and societal-cultural paradigms of interculturality, migration, diaspora and self-chosen exile, especially in the case of writers with Indian origins and/or connections. In order to analyse, even attempt to understand the core concerns of fiction in today's globalised world of disembodied and dislocated voices, especially in the context of a multi-dimensional and culturally-transgenic way-of-life such as the Indian, one must study its deep and abiding inter-connectivity with contemporaneous 'glocal' realities. We will look at the relevant exchanges and encounters between the 'global' and the 'local' and 'modernity' and 'tradition' in the selected texts; in the process, key concepts of literary theory and the Euro-American and Indian novel will be discussed and debated, locating the course within the domain of comparative literary theory.
Key Texts and Contexts: Ghosh, Amitav, The Shadow Lines (1988), Desai, Anita, Baumgartner's Bombay (1989), Mistry, Rohinton, Such a Long Journey (1991) and Naipaul, Sir Vidiadhar S., Magic Seeds (2004) (mandatory reading); and Chandra, Vikram, Red Earth and Pouring Rain (1992) and Rushdie, Salman, The Enchantress of Florence (2008) (additional reading). Students are advised not to worry if some of these texts are not readily-available: the Lecturer will advise on their available editions as and when needed; it is preferable that they read or, at least, read about, one of the above-mentioned texts or authors before the commencement of the course in mid-April.
Course Language/Unterrichtssprache: English and German
Desirable (but NOT mandatory) language proficiency: Level B1 and above, for English, of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Evaluation: Interactive participation in class-activities, quizzes with mutually-negotiable frequency, verbal presentations, the end-of-semester essay and regular attendance; the last-named will factor as a positive incentive, in terms of grade-weightage for regularity, and not in a punitive sense.