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Course Schedule
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ASIAN 206, Spring 2009
Modern Literature of South Asia


Instructor: Jennifer Dubrow
Office: 250 Gowen Hall
Office Hours: W 1:30-2:30 and by appointment
Course Website:

Course description
This course is an introduction to the modern literature of South Asia from the fifteenth century to the present. We will closely read a selection of novels, short stories and poetry from several South Asian languages. Our first text, The Namesake, deals with migration and identity struggles in two generations of a Bengali-American family. Our next text, The Crooked Line, gives a complex look at gender and society in pre-independence India. In the second half of the course, we explore historical moments of violence and trauma as represented by short stories on the 1947 Partition, and an allegorical novel on present-day Pakistan, Moth Smoke. Finally, we read stories from Malgudi Days on morality and deception, and conclude with devotional poems from the bhakti and ghazal traditions. Students will also visit the Garden & Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur exhibition at the Seattle Asian Art Museum so that we can discuss it in class.

Course Goals

The primary goals of this course are to analyze and appreciate a set of literary texts from South Asia. To those ends, we will learn close reading techniques that we will use throughout the quarter to uncover how texts work. We will also use writing as a means to organize ideas and shape them into academic arguments. Our goals in class sessions will be to discuss and debate our readings using textual evidence, with the active participation of all students.

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Assignments and Grading policy

The final grade in Asian 206 will be based on the following factors:

  • 3 Short Essays, 3-4 pages each (double-spaced), on each of the major readings (15% each, for 45% total);
  • 2 Close Readings and a response paper to the Garden & Cosmos exhibition, each 1 page (10%);
  • Final essay, 6-8 pages (double-spaced), that builds on one of your previous essays and compares at least two texts (20%);
  • Group Presentation in class on topics drawn from the readings (10%);
  • Class Participation, which includes bringing passages to discuss in class, asking questions, and making thoughtful academic arguments (15%).

General Guidelines:

--All readings must be completed before the class in which they will be discussed, and should be read using close reading techniques that will be covered in class.

--All written assignments are to be turned in at the beginning of class, and should be typed in 12-point font and double-spaced.

--All essays will be graded on: having a debatable thesis statement; the use of textual evidence; and the overall strength and clarity of the argument. These elements will be discussed in class.

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Required readings

The following four books (all available in paperback editions from the University Bookstore) are required for Asian 206. They are listed in the order we will read them. In addition, we will read several short stories and poems that will be available through electronic reserves (linked to the course website).

1) Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake. Mariner Books, 2006.

2) Ismat Chughtai, The Crooked Line. Translated by Tahira Naqvi. Feminist Press at CUNY, 2006.

3) Mohsin Hamid, Moth Smoke. Picador Books, 2001.

4) R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days. With an introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri. Penguin Classics, 2005.

Course Reserves
All required readings for this course are available on reserve at Odegaard Undergraduate Library, as well as a few reference works on South Asian history and literature. A complete list is available at the "Course Reserves" link on the course website.

Policy on Attendance and Late Assignments
Students enrolled in ASIAN 206 are expected to attend all classes and are responsible for all material covered in class. If you are unable to attend a class, it is your responsibility to find out from another student what was covered and what assignments were given. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class. Any missing or unexcused late assignments will be graded as zero. If, because of exceptional circumstances such as illness (with a doctor's note), death in the family, etc., you are unable to submit an assignment on time, it is your responsibility to inform the instructor and make alternate arrangements.

Policy regarding Academic Honesty
All students are expected to follow University of Washington standards of academic honesty, to be found at Cheating and plagiarism, i.e. submitting anyone else's work as your own (whether it be an essay written by another student or downloaded from the Internet), are strictly forbidden. Cases of suspected plagiarism will be reported immediately to the Committee on Academic Conduct of the University's Office of Undergraduate Education.

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