This volume seeks meaningful responses to the following questions: What do we teach when we teach South Asian women’s writing? How do we teach it in a variety of contexts? How is our pedagogy changing in response to new developments: digital contexts, emergent genres, changes in the publishing industry, and growing anxiety about the underrepresentation of nonanglophone writing? Essays in this volume will address the questions raised above in order to support teachers in the classroom as they plan syllabi, and consider their local pedagogic environment. The volume will incorporate discussion on issues that routinely emerge in the teaching of area-based literary studies, particularly when focused on women’s writing: information about cultural contexts and regional histories; the politics of gender, queerness, and international feminism; and the need for a critical apparatus attentive to the aesthetic dimensions of this literature along with its socio-political engagement.
Essays will engage with pedagogical discussion and address different kinds of institutions and courses, syllabi, teaching techniques, methods, and classroom debates.
This volume begins with a working definition of the remit and province of South Asian women’s writing as inclusive of mainstream as well as lesser-known anglophone writers from different countries in South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Apart from geographic contiguity, the literary landscape of this region has been shaped in part by the shared history of British colonialism, contributing to the production of a substantial anglophone literary corpus by women writers from these regions. In her response to a question about her use of English, the Indian writer Anita Desai states, “I did not feel I was confronted with a choice but a heritage,” and yet she also observes that “I’ve been interested in finding ways of bending or expanding the language, so that it includes the tones and accents and rhythms of other peoples.” The Pakistani writer Bapsi Sidhwa declares her claim to English forcefully in these terms: “this useful language, rich also in literature, is no longer the monopoly of the British. We the excolonized have subjugated the language, beaten it on its head and made it ours! Let the English chafe and fume. The fact remains that in adapting English to our use, in hammering it sometimes on its head, and in sometimes twisting its tail, we have given it a new shape, substance, and dimension.” By adopting the problematic term anglophone, we expect essays in this volume to address the use of English by South Asian writers, although we will entertain the possibility of including essays on writers translated into English. The volume will also address the work of diasporic writers invested in homeland issues and their negotiation of their complex heritage in diaspora.
Part I: Theories
The first section will invite essays about the interaction between literary production and the work of criticism. Contributors will explore how shifts in theoretical approaches in the humanities have influenced teaching practices and ways of reading South Asian women’s writing. The section will include chapters on the use of theoretical perspectives such as postcolonialism, subaltern studies, world literature, feminism, ecocriticism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis in the transmission of knowledge about South Asian literature in the classroom. The section will offer an important resource for comparing views on the teaching of South Asian literature and for rethinking the links among literature, theory and the classroom experience. The aim of the first part of the volume will be to bridge the gap between theoretical discourses and teaching practices, and contributors will be encouraged to discuss pedagogical issues as a crucial aspect of literary studies today, reimagining the role of teaching philosophies in the making of South Asian literary criticism and questioning the concept of a postcolonial pedagogy.
Part II: Themes
The second section will concern major themes that need to be addressed in the teaching of South Asian women’s writing: rethinking the anglophone; language and translation, geography and gender, and dominant and emergent forms of literary expression.
Contributors will need to explore the crucial questions posed by form, language and textuality. Main themes in this section will include the following: the history of English as a literary language in South Asia; the politics of translation, both linguistic translation of texts and forms of cultural translation through the work of criticism; the way in which anglophone writers and critics have interacted with literary cultures in languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil; and how diasporic writers maintain links to the countries of origin through language use. The notion of translation will be considered both in its literal meaning, as transposition from one language into the other, and in a metaphorical sense, addressing issues of cultural translation and redefining the practice of teaching South Asian literature as a form of translation. Alongside linguistic and formal issues of language use, textual influences and the aesthetic, the section will explore the literary medium as a way of discussing historical and socio-political topics in the classroom. Can literary work be studied to address major themes in South Asian history such as Partition, Independence, the Emergency? How do South Asian women writers adopt different genres, from the novel to the short story, poetry, comics and visual narratives? It will also deal with main issues addressed by women writers such as violence and representations of the body, the politics of gender, queerness, and sexuality; food, family, and religion at home and in diaspora; domestic and waged labor, the legacy of decolonization and national liberation, class, caste and economic opportunities; the impact of development, capitalism, and globalization; women, nature, and the environment; and literacy and digital and traditional technologies.
Part III: Contexts: Teaching around the World
This section will host contributions from teachers of South Asian women’s writing from different regions and countries. It will provide an engaging platform for discussing teaching issues and strategies beyond the anglophone world. Key pedagogical contexts addressed in the section are likely to include Italy, France, Germany, Finland, Egypt, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and Brazil. We invite colleagues from nonanglophone countries to take part in this section. This section represents an attempt to operationalize the idea of the global meaningfully by attempting international and cross-cultural conversations and a transnational exchange of resources across diverse spaces. Essays will consider what does it means to teach South Asian women’s writing in specific countries.