Issues in Thematology: Minor Literature

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSOL3CL4014

Semester and Year Offered: Winter 2018
Course Coordinator and Team: Shad Naved
Email of course
Pre-requisites: MPhil CLTS core courses A and B.
Aim: While named after a programmatic nomenclature and statement, this course takes this major idea of western literary criticism and proposes ways to walk the tightrope of minor literature as (i) comparisons between ‘other’ minor literary encounters from non-European genealogies; and (ii) comparisons in literary history to build new genealogies of the minor, not confined to its modern iterations. As such, the course may be offered with two different sets of readings, with a common theoretical core, depending on the interest of students and instructors.
Course Outcomes:

  1. Develop competence in interdisciplinary thinking between literature and political theory.
  2. Analyze literary texts with an understanding of the social dimensions of language.
  3. Propose a theory of minority in relation to one’s own research question about literature.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module I. Inscriptions of Minority
Module I is theoretical but also charts various iterations of reading for the minor in literary texts. The idea is to move beyond a definitional model of minor literature towards an elaborative one. The student is encouraged to give her/his own genealogy of the debates through the suggested set of readings. Not 2
all the writers in this module are elaborating a theory of minor literature per se, but, for example, Barthes and De Man provide ways into literary concentrations of meaning to come up with destabilizations in keys texts of European modernity. Similarly, the readings from South Asian literary historiography flag the historical coming into being of minor anomalies in grand traditional continuities. The Module thus provides theoretical tools, and a conceptual vocabulary, to mark the phenomenon of minority in comparative literary study.

Module II. Modern Sites
Module II includes literary texts from the modern period of which a majority come from prose. Their settings and contexts are drawn from diverse world locations in order to set off comparative conversations even where the literatures themselves may not be inclined towards it. Thus, Bankim’s English novel from nineteenth-century Bengal may be read alongside the Kenyan–Indian G.V. Desani’s early modernist experiment in the English novel. The Palestinian Arabic writer Ghassan Kanafani could be placed alongside the Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, both writing in their first languages, in the minor short-story mode, but writing to break into an experience that is both evanescent and political of their peculiar situation in two partitioned societies.

Module III. Premodern sites
This module proposes a genealogy of texts from non-western locations staging the question of minority within the norms of tradition. The texts are all ‘Oriental’, in order to exemplify the operations of minority in locations which are historically subsumed under the identities of culture, language, race and civilization. The pedagogical question here is both historical and conceptual: how have civilizations dealt with the experience of minority? How do we read old texts with new expectations without ignoring their formal properties? Finally, in the absence of themes of minority and powerlessness, how can we still revisit dominant texts from the past to experience the limits of linguistic expressivity, something which we are trained to identify only in the modern?

Assessment Details with weights:


  • Class presentation (40%): this will be based on the student’s chosen mode of approaching the course’s theme.
  • Final paper (40%): Elaboration of the class presentation into a research paper.
  • Class participation (20%): written response papers, participating in class discussion.

Reading List:

Module 1 (indicative):
Amin, Shahid. ‘Representing the Musalman’. In Mayaram, Pandian and Skaria, eds, Subaltern Studies XII: Muslims, Dalits, and the Fabrications of History. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2005.
Barthes, Roland. S/Z. Trans.Richard Miller, Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1974.
Bhabha, Homi. ‘DissemiNation: Time, narrative and the margins of the modern nation.’ In Locations of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.
Chakrabarty, Dipesh. ‘Minority Histories, Subaltern Pasts’. In Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000. 3
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. Dana Polan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
De Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke and Proust. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.
Mufti, Aamir. ‘Inscriptions of Minority in British Late Imperial Culture: From Daniel Deronda to A Passage to India.’ In Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2007.
Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. ‘Introduction: Three (and More) Ways to Be Alien’. In Three Ways to Be Alien.Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2011.
Wakankar, Milind. ‘The Anomaly of Kabir: Caste and Canonicity in Indian Modernity.’ In Mayaram, Pandian and Skaria, eds. Subaltern Studies XII. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2005.

Module 2 (indicative):
Aboobacker, Sara. Breaking Ties. Trans. Vanamala Viswanath. Chennai: Macmillan, 2001. [Kannada]
Bond, Ruskin. A Flight of Pigeons. New Delhi: Penguin, 2002. [English]
Derozio. Henry Vivian and Rosinka Chaudhuri. Derozio, Poet of India: The Definitive Edition. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008. [English]
Desai, Anita. In Custody. [English]
Desani, G.V. All About H. Hatterr. [English]
Ghatak, Ritwik. Stories. Trans. Rani Ray. Delhi: Srishti, 2000.
Kanafānī, Ghassān, and Hilary Kilpatrick. Men in the Sun & Other Palestinian Stories. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner, 1999. [Arabic]
Kire, Easterine. Bitter Wormwood. New Delhi: Zubaan, 2011. [English]
Olsen, Tillie. ‘Tell me a riddle’. In Olsen, Tell Me a Riddle. London: Virago, 1980. [English]
Raza, RahiMasoom. Adhagaon/The Feuding Families of Village Gangauli. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 1994. [Hindi]
Singh, Gurdial. In the Name of the Blind Horse =: Anne Ghore Da Dan. Trans. Hardilbagh S. Gill. Patiala: Publication Bureau, Punjabi University, 2012. [Punjabi]

Module 3 (indicative):
Arabic poetry in India: From Muid A. Khan. The Arabian Poets of Golconda. Bombay: University of Bombay, 1963.
Bhavabhuti, Uttaramacharita/Rama’s Last Act. Trans. Sheldon Pollock. New York: Clay Sanskrit Library, 2007. [Sanskrit]
Daknipoetry. Selections from Petievich, Carla. When Men Speak As Women: Vocal Masquerade in Indo-Muslim Poetry. New Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007. [Dakni Urdu]
Hala, The Absent Traveller: Prākrit Love Poetry from the Gāthāsaptaśatī of SātavāhanaHāla. Trans. Arvind K. Mehrotra.Delhi: Orient Longman, 1991. [Prakrit]
Ja‘farZatalli. Poems from ShamsurrahmanFaruqi, ‘Burning Rage, Icy Storm: The Poetry of Ja‘farZatalli.’ (Lecture under the auspices of the Hindi-Urdu Flagship, University of Texas at Austin, 24 September 2008); available at: [Hindi/Urdu]
Kabir. Essential Kabir. Trans. Arvind K. Mehrotra. Gurgaon: Hachette, 2012. [Hindi]