Foto: Matthias Friel
Contemporary Indian fiction is full of older people. In more progressive circles, this literary phenomenon is viewed with some anxiety, as one sign of an intensifying cultural conservatism, allied to the ‘family values’ rhetoric of Hindu Nationalism in which social relations, including those between ruler and ruled, are best modeled along the paternalistic, multigenerational structure of the traditional family, which is moreover deeply invested in casting one’s elders, and the hoary past for which they are seen to stand, as subjects of unmitigated reverence. Indeed, the category of age has acquired such symbolic density over time (and not just in India), that it has become difficult to speak about what is old, elderly and ageing, without also at the same time drawing on the staple binaries of tradition and modernity, past and present, frailty and strength.
That said, to view age always as a metaphor for something else – a critical phenomenon aided in no small measure by the preoccupations of postcolonial theory -- entails excluding other legitimate ways of reading its representation in fiction – readings which privilege corporeality and affect over abstraction. While this course on post-Independence Indian literature on ageing begins by recognizing the usefulness of age in thinking through culture and politics in the subcontinent, it then moves beyond the cultural semiotic approach, to examine a range of responses, from despair to defiance to delight with which older people negotiate changes in family form, social alienation, psychological vulnerability, perceived obsolescence, moral restrictions, diminishing cultural capital, dependence and loss of memory, and not least imminent death.
Weekly classroom lectures and discussions will focus on close readings of a series of short stories, novels and film, in English and in English translation from various Indian languages, paying laying special emphasis on the role of body, memory, narrative, objects, care, and the changing dynamics of desire in the diaspora. Week 6 and Week 9 are reserved for solo or group presentations on a prescribed short story that invites critical engagement with significant themes.
Wk 1: Introductory and Organizational session
AGE AS METAPHOR
Wk 2: The Nation and its Old: Shivani’s ‘Grandmother’ & Manjul Bhagat’s ‘Bebeji’
Wk 3: Mother India’s Body: Krishna Baldev Vaid’s ‘Our Old Woman’
A MIDDLE-CLASS MODERNITY
Wk 4: Insatiable Age: Githa Hariharan’s ‘The Remains of the Feast’ & Anita Desai’s ‘A Devoted Son’
Wk 5: The False Binary: Tradition vs Modernity in Bhisham Sahni’s ‘Dinner for the Boss’ & Mahasveta Devi’s ‘The Son’
Wk 6: CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Gyan Ranjan’s ‘Father’ [SHORT STORY]
EMBODIMENT AND MATERIAL CULTURE
Wk 7: A Timely Death: T. Janakiraman’s ‘The Puppet’, Bijay Prasad Mahapatra’s ‘Unseasonal Pineapple’, & Chaman Nahal’s
'The Womb’ [SHORT STORIES]
Wk 8: Ageing and the Attachment to Objects: S. R. Harnot’s ‘Ma Reads’, Pratibha Ray’s ‘The Blanket’, & Narendranath Mitra’s
‘The Four-poster Bed’ [SHORT STORIES]
Wk 9: CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Ismat Chughtai’s ‘Tiny’s Granny’ [SHORT STORY]
THE GENDER OF CARE
Wk 10: No Drama: The Mother-Daughter relationship in Krishna Sobti’s ‘Listen, Girl’ [NOVELLA]
Wk 11: The Intergenerational Contract: Shashi Deshpande’s ‘Lucid Moments’ & Githa Hariharan’s ‘The Art of Dying’ [SHORT
LINES VS TRIANGLES
Wk 12: Desire in the Diaspora: ABCD – [a FILM, by Krutin Desai]
Wk 13: Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters [NOVEL]
Wk 14: Upamanyu Chatterjee’s The Last Burden [NOVEL]
Wk 15: Concluding Discussion
ABCD: American Born Confused Desi – a film by Krutin Patel.
Bhagat, Manjul. “Bebeji.” 1985. Trans. from Hindi by Bhagat. Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present. Vol. 2. Ed. Susie Tharu
and K. Lalita. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1991. 429-434.
Chatterjee, Upamanyu. 1993. The Last Burden. London: Faber.
Chughtai, Ismat. “Tiny’s Granny.” 1954. Trans. from the Urdu by Ralph Russell. In Grey Areas: An Anthology of Indian Fiction on Ageing,
edited by Ira Raja, 115–125. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Desai, Anita. “A Devoted Son.” The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Short Stories. Ed. Stephen Alter and Wimal Dissanayake. New Delhi:
Penguin, 1991. 92-101.
Deshpande, Shashi. 1993. “Lucid Moments.” The Intrusion and Other Stories. New Delhi: Penguin. 70-80.
Devi, Mahasveta. 1986. “The Son.” Trans. from Bengali by Devi. Indian Literature 29.2: 42-56.
Gyanranjan. “Father.” 1968. Trans from the Hindi by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. New Writing in India. Ed. Adil Jussawalla. Middlesex,
England: Penguin Books, 1974. 136-144.
Harnot, S.R. “Ma Reads.” 2002. Trans. from the Hindi by Ira Raja. In Grey Areas: An Anthology of Indian Fiction on Ageing, edited by Ira
Raja, 104–108. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Hariharan, Githa. 1993. “The Remains of the Feast.” The Art of Dying and Other Stories. New Delhi: Penguin.
Hariharan, Githa. 1993. “The Art of Dying”, Kunapipi, 15.3: 46-56
Janakiraman, T. 2010. “The Puppet.” In Grey Areas: An Anthology of Contemporary Indian Fiction on Ageing, edited by Ira Raja, 185–93.
New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Mahapatra, Bijay Prasad. “Unseasonal Pineapple.” In Grey Areas: An Anthology of Contemporary Indian Fiction on Ageing, edited by Ira
Raja, 217–22. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Mistry, Rohinton. 2001. Family Matters. Faber.
Mitra, Narendranath. 1975. “The Four-Poster Bed.” Trans. from the Bengali by Tutun Mukherkee. Stories about the Partition of India, Vol
II., edited by Alok Bhalla. New Delhi: Indus, 1994.
Nahal, Chaman.“The Womb.” In Grey Areas: An Anthology of Contemporary Indian Fiction on Ageing, edited by Ira Raja, 126–39. New
Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Ray, Pratibha. “The Blanket.” 1984. Trans. from the Oriya by Jayanta Mahapatra. Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present. Vol.
II., edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Sobti, Krishna. “Ai Ladki.” The Little Magazine (May 2000): 65-85.
Sahni, Bhisham. “Dinner for the Boss.” Trans. from Hindi by Gillian Wright. Middle India: Selected Stories. Penguin.
Shivani. “Grandmother.” 1979. Trans. from Hindi by Mrinal Pande. Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present. Vol. 2. Ed. Susie
Tharu and K. Lalita. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1991. 181-188.
Vaid, K. B. (2001), ‘Our Old Woman,’ trans. by the author, Hindi: Language, Discourse, Writing, 2.3, pp. 33–79.
3 CPs response paper
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