Mahasweta Devi: Comparative Readings

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL2CL1044

Course Coordinator and Team: Professor Radha Chakravarty (Coordinator)

Email of course coordinator: radha[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None.

Aim: Through an examination of Mahasweta Devi’s works in diverse genres such as fiction, non-fiction and drama, this course proposes to open up certain core debates related to Comparative Literature and Translation Studies. The focus would be on reading these texts in relation to changing critical paradigms, in order to resituate Mahasweta as a writer/activist of world stature. In the process, ideas of canonicity and literary tradition would be interrogated and re-defined. The student who takes this course would acquire not only in-depth knowledge of an important and versatile literary figure, but also a fine-tuned understanding of the key concerns of comparatist literary analysis, with a special emphasis on languages, translation and adaptations.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  • Mahasweta Devi: Changing perspectives: This module will contextualize Mahasweta Devi’s writings, and track their changing critical reception across time and place. Students will gain a historical overview of the evolution of her reputation, from her relationship to the Bengali literary establishment, to her claims to pan-Indian readership via translations, and eventually, her emergence as an international figure, through the interventions of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
  • Fiction: This module will focus on Mahasweta’s contribution in the field of fiction, through a close reading of one novel and some selected short stories. Forms of radicalism in these texts will be analyzed, along with the politics of language in her narrative style. Questions of canonicity, social and intellectual hierarchy and the link between literature, ethics and activism will be central to the reading process.
  • Non-fiction and Drama: This module will expand the students’ understanding of Mahasweta’s versatility, by focusing on her work in a range of genres such as biography, history, political prose, journalism and drama. Students will have the opportunity to trace the development of certain core concerns in her work, and to reflect upon the connections between politics and literary genres.
  • Translating Mahasweta: This module will focus on translations and adaptations in comparative frameworks. Parallel translations of selected works will be studied, to raise questions about the relationship between source texts and the multiple contexts of their reception and circulation. Mahasweta’s multilingual approach to writing will be foregrounded. Students will be encouraged to read translations of her works in diverse languages. Some translation exercises will be part of the plan for this module.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Class participation 20%
  • Assignment 40%
  • Term paper or translation project 40%

Reading List (indicative):

  • Sujit Mukherjee, “Mahasweta Devi’s Writings: An Evaluation”. Mahasweta Devi: An Anthology of Recent Criticism, ed. Nivedita Sen and Nikhil Yadav. Pencraft, 2008. 229-235.
  • Samik Bandyopadhyay, “Introduction”. Bashai Tudu by Mahasweta Devi, translated by Samik Bandyopadhyay and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.. Thema, 1990. vii-xiv.
  • Mahasweta Devi, “ ‘Telling History’: Gayatri Spivak interviews Mahasweta Devi”. Chotti Munda and His Arrow by Mahasweta Devi, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Seagull, 2002. ix-xxviii.
  • Judith Butler, Undoing Gender. Routledge, 2004. 240-253.

Module 2:

  • The Mother of 1084. Translated by Samik Bandyopadhyay. Seagull, 1997.
  • Bashai Tudu. Translated by Samik Bandyopadhyay and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. [Extracts from selections]. 149-162.
  • “Giribala”. In the Name of the Mother: Four Stories, translated by Radha Chakravarty. Seagull, 2004. 56-78.
  • “Salt”. The Stream Within: Short Stories by Contemporary Bengali Women, translated and edited by Swati Ganguly and Sarmistha Dutta Gupta. Stree, 1999. 22-37.
  • “The Hunt”. Imaginary Maps: Three Stories, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Routledge, 1995. 1-17

Module 3:

  • The Queen of Jhansi [Extracts]. Translated by Mandira and Sagaree Sengupta. Seagull, 2000.
  • “Bayen”. Five Plays, translated by Samik Bandyopadhyay. Seagull, 1997. 75-91.
  • Dust on the Road: The Activist Writings of Mahasweta Devi. [Selections.] Seagull, 1997.

Module 4:

  • “The Wet Nurse”, translated by Ella Dutta. The Inner Line: The Zubaan Anthology of Stories by Indian Women, ed. Urvashi Butalia. Zubaan, 2006. 25-62.
  • “Breast Giver”. Breast Stories, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Seagull, 1997. 39-75.
  • “Shishu/Children”, translated by Pinaki Bhattacharya. Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present, Vol. II, ed. Susie Tharu and K Lalitha. OUP, 1993. 234-251.
  • “Little Ones” Bitter Soil, translated by Ipshita Chanda. Seagull, 1998. 1-20.
  • Anjum Katyal, “The Metamorphosis of Rudali”. Mahasweta Devi: An Anthology of Recent Criticism, ed. Nivedita Sen and Nikhil Yadav. 41-70.


  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “A Literary Representation of the Subaltern: Mahasweta Devi’s ‘Stanadayini’”. In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. Methuen, 1987 . 241-268.
  • Alakananda Bagchi, “Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahasweta Devi’s Bashai Tudu”. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 15:1 (1996).
  • Brinda Bose, ed. Translating Desire. Katha, 2002.
  • Minoli Salgado, “Tribal Stories, Scribal Worlds: Mahasweta Devi and the Unreliable Translator”. Journal of Commonwealth Literature 35:1 (2000), 131-145.
  • Nivedita Sen and Nikhil Yadav, eds. Mahasweta Devi: An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Pencraft, 2008.
  • Radha Chakravarty. Feminism and Contemporary Women Writers: Rethinking Subjectivity. Routledge, 2008.
  • Tapan Basu, ed. Translating Caste. Katha, 2002.
  • Tabish Khair, “The Knowledge of Loss, the Loss of Knowledge: Jhumpa Lahiri, Shashi Deshpande, Mahasweta Devi”. Angles of English-Speaking World, ed. Nanette Hale and Tabish Khair. Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2001. 139-144.
  • E. Sathyanarayana. The Plays of Mahasweta Devi. Prestige Books, 2000.
  • Martha Nussbaum, “Love, Care and Women’s Dignity: The Family as a Privileged Community”. Diveristy and Community An Interdisciplinary Reader, ed. Philip Alperson. Blackwell, 2002. 209-228.
  • Nandini Sen, ed. Mahasweta Devi: Critical Perspectives. Pencraft International, 2011.
  • Sanatan Bhowal, The Subaltern Speaks: Truth and Ethics in Mahasweta Devi’s Fiction on Tribals. Orient Blackswan, 2018.


  • Sunghursh
  • Hajar Chaurasi ki Maa
  • Rudali
  • Selected Documentary films on Mahasweta Devi