English 198/Asia 198
Professor Amardeep Singh
Amardeep Singh (nickname Deep)
Office: 221 Drown Hall
Office Hours: Wednesday afternoons, appointment recommended
Amitava Kumar, Away: The Indian Writer as Expatriate
E.M. Forster, A
Sarah Macdonald, Holy Cow!
Lee Siegel, Love in a Dead Language
William Dalrymple, City
Gita Mehta, Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East
Additional short reading we will be doing (generally on Blackboard/online)
The Travels of Dean Mahomet
Available on Blackboard (and online –etext)
Katherine Mayo, excerpts from Mother India
Available on Blackboard (and online –etext)
Amy Waldman, New York Times reporter
Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist
Excerpts from The World is Flat. Available on Blackboard
Suketu Mehta, excerpt from
Amitav Ghosh, essays on visiting Andaman/Nicobar after the Tsunami (January 2005)
Available on Blackboard
English 198/Asia 198
Tuesday 1/17 First day of class/ introduction to the course NOTES
Excerpt from Yemi Onufuwa, “
1/19 Read: “Introduction” and “Prologue” chapters from Amitava Kumar’s Away: The Indian Writer as an Expatriate (pp. xiii-xx and 3-58)
Also read: the
rest of “
In class: Lecture and discussion, introducing the concept of ‘travel writing’. Keywords: exile, expatriate, migration, traveler, acculturation, assimilation, diaspora, desi
Historical keywords: Empire, imperialism, colonialism, decolonization.
1/24 E.M. Forster,
1/26 Passage to
Additional reading: keywords on “orientalism”
In class: introduction to E.M. Forster and the modern
British literary scene. Also discussion of the role of
1/31 Passage to
In class: Discussion
of the rising Indian independence movement in the 1910s and 20s. Discussion
of various religious communities amongst in
2/2 Passage to
Also read: excerpts from Katherine Mayo, Mother India NOTES
2/7 “Part I” of Kumar’s Exile: pp. 59-171 NOTES
2/9 “Part II” of Kumar’s Exile: pp. 210-274 NOTES
2/14 “Part III” of Kumar’s Exile pp. 301-389
2/16 Sarah MacDonald,
Also read: Article by Gautam Dutta on Yosuf Komunyakaa’s
2/21 Sarah MacDonald,
2/23 NO CLASS (I’m off
2/28 Gita Mehta,
3/2 Gita Mehta, Karma Cola
3/7 SPRING BREAK
3/9 SPRING BREAK
3/14 William Dalrymple,
Also read: recent American journalism on
pieces on cars and highways, and Tom Friedman’s pieces on the business/IT
3/16 William Dalrymple,
Dalrymple, City of
3/23 Love in a Dead Language
3/28 Love in a Dead Language NOTES
3/30 Love in a Dead Language
4/13 Papers due
4/18 Travels of Dean Mahomet (online/Blackboard)
4/20 Travels of Dean Mahomet (online/Blackboard)
4/25 Online projects discussion/progress
4/27 Exam review/ wrap-up NOTES
Final exam: during exam week
Christopher Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue, but it
was Vasco de Gama that actually found
(As you may remember, that’s where
But somewhat more seriously, it does tell you something
worth considering: if he couldn’t distinguish Native Americans from people in
Despite the story of the wrong-turn, the Portuguese trade
Which brings us to travel writers, the topic of this course.
The British inherited from the Portuguese a tendency to misunderstand and
mischaracterize what they were seeing when they went to
Why? Where did this sense of skepticism come from?
Since the beginning of the modern era – the era of full
capitalism and European colonial dominance – travel has rarely been innocent.
To a fair extent the idea of travel was closely linked to British authority
over its colonies in Africa, Asia, and the
If you go someplace as a master, rather than simply as a visitor, it has an affect on how you see the country. Some of the early British travel narratives bear the stamp of a too-confident sense of superiority, the sense that only they are truly able to understand the merits and failures of foreign civilizations. The “natives” themselves are thought of as naïve simpletons, who don’t know what’s good for them.
This course deals with the politics of travel writing to an extent, especially in the
materials we’ll be looking at early on, materials written in the latter days of
colonialism. You really see this smug, superior attitude in the writing of the
American writer Katherine Mayo, whose book Mother
India was a big bestseller in the
Not every British or American traveler in
There’s a flip side too, writings by people from poorer,
colonized societies like
Of course, not everyone worshipped the west. Mohandas Gandhi
(who would later be given the nickname “Mahatma,” or great soul, by his
admirers) went to
Of course, at some point you have to try and get beyond mutual misunderstanding, or you are essentially talking about people who don’t understand each other at all. If our only response to travel writing is to find faults with the traveler – this is what she doesn’t understand in the local language, that is what he doesn’t know enough about the local religion – there wouldn’t be much point in reading them.
What this course is going to try and do is look beyond the various failures one finds in travel narratives, and focus on the full picture: good insights as well as obvious clichés. The larger interest is to think about the idea of travel writing as a genre: what do travel writers do and how do they do it? Can we make a list of characteristics that seem to be present in nearly all travel writing?
More questions: How far do you have to go before you’re traveling? Is it possible to look at the everyday world around you with ‘travel eyes’, which is to say, to see it as if for the first time?
Obviously few if any of you have been to
The problem of cross-cultural understanding, and the awkward position of the traveler is an issue that you’ll experience nearly anywhere in the world.
This is an experimental course, and one of the questions
I’ll be asking as a teacher is how similar are the two kinds of travel
narratives? How much do Indian travelers in the west resemble the writing
produced by English and American travelers who go to
Another biggie is this: how does reading these books help us
understand the relationships between these two distant – but still tightly
connected – parts of the world? What is the history of the relationship between
English 198/Asia 198 (?)
Empire: The idea
of total control by a single power, over several nations at once. At its peak
Imperialism: The practice of building empires.
Colony: A subject territory, ruled by a foreign power.
Colonialism: The practice of running foreign territories. This terms is actually distinct from ‘Imperialism,’ though there is some overlap. Colonialism is more of an economic idea (it doesn’t necessarily have strong ‘symbolic’ value).
Decolonization: The process of dismantling colonialism.
(Indian independence was achieved in 1947, after 40 years of agitation)
Nationalism and cultural nationalism: The intellectual and political movement oriented to achieving independence from a foreign power.
Anglophilia (or “mimicry”): In the Indian context, the slavish imitation of foreign values, attitudes, and style. Generally antithetical to nationalism, though there is some overlap here.
Expatriate: A person who lives outside of his or her home country.
Exile: A person who has been banished from his or her home country. Sometimes used in a philosophical rather than a legal sense: ‘exile’ as in, out of sync with one’s peers, ignored, or widely disliked. (See Nirad Chaudhuri)
Migration: The process of moving from place to place.
Travel: Visiting places temporarily (obvious, I know)
Acculturation: Adapting to the cultural norms of a new society.
Assimilation: Thoroughly blending into a new society.
Diaspora: The body of people in a country that are living abroad at a given time. (All of the Indians living in the west can together be called a ‘diaspora’.) The term is also often used with other ethnic and religious groups: the Jewish diaspora, the African diaspora.
Desi: An ‘in-house’ term, describing a cultural artifact or person as of South Asian origin. From the Hindi word “desh,” meaning country.
Very Brief Timeline of “Official” Indian History, 1960s and 70s
1757: British become official colonial power in much of
1857: ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ – first major challenge to British rule.
1910s: Major Indian political movement oriented to achieving independence begins.
1948: Mohandas Gandhi (“Mahatma”) is assassinated by an orthodox Hindu.
1947: First Indo-Pak war (separate from Partition), over
1962: Sino-Indian war. Chinese win decisively in a skirmish in border areas in the north.
1964: Nehru dies. Lal Bahadur Shastri becomes Prime Minister.
1965: Indo-Pak war over
1966: Shastri dies. Indira Gandhi (Nehru's daughter; no relation to Mahatma) becomes Prime Minister.
1971: Rebellion in East Pakistan leads west Pakistanis to
brutal suppression, then full-scale civil war:
1975: Indira Gandhi's “Emergency” -- assumption of dictatorial powers following election defeat.
1977: Resumption of free elections, civil liberties. Indira voted out of office
1980: Indira voted back into power.
1984: Indira Gandhi assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards
1991: Liberalization instituted; change in direction of the government
English 198 – Spring 2006
E.M. Forster: 1879-1970.
Edward Morgan Forster lived most of his life in
Forster’s major novels:
A Room With a View
(Note: All three have been made into movies!) He also wrote some influential literary criticism, including Aspects of the Novel. His letters, short essays, and diaries have also all been published in the past 30 years.
From Wikipedia: Forster traveled in Egypt, Germany and India with classicist
G.L. Dickinson in 1914. During a
journey to the East in the winter of 1916-17, he met in Ramleh a tram
conductor, Mohammed el-Adl, a youth of seventeen with whom he fell in love and
who was to become one of the principal inspirations for his literary work.
Mohammed died of tuberculosis in
* * * *
Passage to India was
a bestseller and made a major impact when it was first published in 1924. It
has been especially influential in shaping the western image of colonial
The novel is based on Forster’s two trips to
He seemed to prefer Indo-Muslim culture over Hindu culture,
which he frankly admitted he didn’t quite understand (you’ll notice that most
of the Indian characters in Passage to
India are Muslims). Here is something he said in a letter to his mother and
sister back in
The more I know the less I understand. With the Mohammedans it is different. When after the nightmare of Gokul Ashtami, I stood on the minaret of the Taj in Agra, and hear the evening call to prayer from the adjacent mosque, I knew at all events where I stood and what I heard; it was a land that was not merely atmosphere but had definite outlines and horizons. So with the Mohammedan friends of Masood whom I am meeting now. They may not be as subtle or suggestive as the Hindus, but I can follow what they are saying.
Forster’s second trip to
What kind of town is Chandrapore? What does it look like?
How is this a ‘travel narrative’? Who are the travelers? Is the resident British community (the “Anglo-Indians”) in transit? Would you call them “expatriates”?
How does Forster characterize Indians in the novel? What do you make of the Indian character Aziz? Is it a sympathetic portrayal? (Give examples of important events of descriptions)
How does Forster characterize the relationship between the English and the Indians in the early part of the novel? (Give examples)
What do you make of the statement, made on p. 32, that
“nothing is private in
What do you make of Ronny Heaslop’s argument with his mother
on p. 51? I’m particularly interested in the statement, “We’re not here to
behave pleasantly.” How do different characters view British colonialism in
How much is race or racism an issue in this part of the novel?
English 198 – Spring 2006
Hinduism/Hindus. 2/3rd of Indian population before independence. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that is practiced slightly differently from place to place. There are several holy books, none of which can be considered the “definitive” text (there is no single Hindu “Bible”). Some groups worship some deities above others, and have slightly different rituals and beliefs. Major deities include Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesh, Hanuman, Kali, Durga, and Lakshmi, though there are many others. By the 1890s, various Hindu reform movements had changed the structure of Hinduism slightly in response to contact with British missionaries – this is the “Hindu Protestantism” that Nirad Chaudhuri refers to in the “England” section of “Away” we read last week.
Islam/Muslims (close to 1/3 of population; most conversions to
Islam occurred at or after the 12th century AD. Between the 1500s
and the 1700s, various Muslim rulers built an empire, with
Sikhism/Sikhs. Recent sect combining attributes of Hinduism and
Islam. About 20-25 million in number, largely based in
Zoroastrians/Parsis. A small minority and a totally distinct faith;
Indian Christians. A decent-sized community of Indian Christians has been in
to Christianity. Today as much as 6 percent of Indians are Christians.
Indian Jews. A small community of Indian Jews has been based in the southern
Indian city of
Buddhism. Though this religion
small in number in
Jains. Pacifist, vegetarian sect related to Buddhism, strongest in Gujurat state.
Timeline: What was
(Quiz: when did British rule in
1885: Founding of Indian National Congress. In its early years, it was an organization focused on the rights of Indians within the empire (they didn’t initially advocate independence). Later, it would become the main political party agitating for independence from British rule. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawarhalal Nehru were Congress Party members. The Congress Party is also the one governing the country at present (as in, today in 2006).
English 198 – Spring 2006
Keywords and vocabulary terms
“Rather surprised, [Mrs. Moore] replied: “I don’t think I understand people very well. I only know whether I like or dislike them.”
[Aziz:] “Then you are an Oriental.”
The term “Oriental” has a long, vexed history in the history of British colonialism and travel writing. Beginning with the late 1700s, “oriental” was a term used by many Europeans to describe peoples as well as a whole slew of cultural attributes associated with the ‘East’, which included the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. (Today, if one hears the term “oriental” it is probably used to describe only east Asians.)
confusing about the term is its vagueness: it seems to apply to everything east of the
Recent scholars like Edward Said have suggested that the term “Oriental” was fundamentally a myth constructed by Europeans to describe everything and everyone they thought to be different from themselves. If Rationality is a valued European trait, Orientals are by definition irrational. Edward Said suggests that the way the term “oriental” was used during the colonial era had more to do with the European imagining of the Other than actual experience or observation. It was such a powerful term that it almost didn’t matter if it was backed up by empirical fact. As he put it:
“Orientalism was ultimately a
political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the
book, it’s surprising to see Aziz playing with the term so confidently, and
turning it in some sense on its head even as he accepts it as a category. What
might it mean for him to refer to
Following his own usage of the word, would Aziz be an Oriental? (Compare Aziz’s way of speaking to Godbole’s, especially on pp. 84-85)
What do you make of the second invocation of “oriental” on page 59?
The third time the word is used, on p. 157, Aziz is quite plainly described by the narrator as an “Oriental”: “Like most Orientals, Aziz overrated hospitality, mistaking it for intimacy, and not seeing that it is tainted with the sense of possession.”
Maidan (4): open, public field.
Bridge Party (26): ‘East’ meets ‘West’ in Chandrapore.
Pukka (27): Means “ready” or “ripe.” If someone isn’t fully or properly adjusted to standard values in Chandrapore, they are likely to be referred to as “not pukka.” Both Fielding and Adela Quested are referred to as “not pukka” in this passage.
Burra Sahib (27):
Literally means the “big master.” It’s actually a reference to the head British magistrate who governs this unit
Izzat (33): Literally means honor or respect.
Mohurram (41): Important Shia Muslim festival, which marks the massacre of the early leader Imam Hussain. Usually involves large public processions of mourning where men flagellate themselves to ritually reenact Hussain’s death.
Purdah (42): Literally means “curtain.” It is a reference to the segregated living patterns practiced in elite Indo-Muslim culture.
Urdu (42): This
is Hindi (the dominant language spoken in
A maharani is a queen, and a maharajah is a king. Many regions of
Chukker (60): Round. “Let’s have another chukker” means “let’s have another round.”
Chit (61): Sheet. In fact, the two words come from the same Indo-European root.
Babuisms (68): A ‘Babu’ would have been an educated Indian man who knew English, and possibly worked for the British administration in some capacity. Early on, many ‘Babus’ were a bit comical with their attempts to emulate British style, and some spoke English a bit idiosyncratically. A ‘Babuism’ is, then, a grammatical mistake.
What do you make of the way the term “muddle” is used in the novel (see p. 73 for instance) ?
What do you make of the experience of the caves, described on pp. 136-137, and then again on 165?
Another important quote from Edward Said, this time on imperialism
But there's more than that to imperialism. There was a commitment
to imperialism over and above profit, a commitment in constant circulation and
recirculation which on the one hand allowed decent men and women from England
or France, from London or Paris, to accept the notion that distant territories
and their native peoples should be subjugated and, on the other hand,
replenished metropolitan energies so that these decent people could think of
the empire as a protracted, almost metaphysical obligation to rule subordinate,
inferior or less advanced peoples. We mustn't forget, and this is a very
important aspect of my topic, that there was very little domestic resistance
English 198 – Spring 2006
1. Law and Order time: Discuss the trial itself. What do you think happened to Adela Quested? (And why do you think that?) What evidence is there against Aziz?
What are some of the factors that make Aziz look guilty?
What do you make of the way the trial is conducted. What are the key events? Does it seem fair overall?
2. Stereotypes: Discuss how the British stereotype the Indians during the period of the trial of Dr. Aziz (pages 180-260). Name some of the stereotypes that are being deployed with regards to Aziz as well as other Indians involved in his defense.
Are there any stereotypes of the British by the Indians?
Notably, most of the stereotypes belong to individual characters. Are there any stereotypes mentioned that seem to belong to the novel itself (i.e., E.M. Forster)?
3. Traveling: Take
a look at the longish section (pages 232-233) focusing on Mrs. Moore’s train
What do you make of the imagery in this passage? Beneath the mystical language, what do you think Forster is trying to say?
we read it as a kind of travel narrative? (How does it change
4. More on the “Sepoy Mutiny” of 1857
In Passage to India, the Sepoy Mutiny is mentioned on pages 187 and 207
The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was a
military mutiny (“sepoy” comes from “sipahi,” which means soldier in Hindi)
that occurred in response to increased missionary activity by the British, a
rapid pace of annexation of small territories and principalities, and heavy
taxation instituted in
Recent historical evidence has suggested that the myth about the new cartridges was likely false. But it was severe enough that it gave an emotional connection to tens of thousands of soldiers who had little contact with each other.
As the most visible act of
resistance, it might still be a live issue for the British in 1910s. They
remain a very small minority in most parts of
While the Mutiny
was in effect (British authority in
Discussion questions: Take a look at the two passages. What does the memory of the Mutiny mean for the British residents of Chandrapore?
5. Muharram (spelled in the novel as “Mohurram”), and the relationship between the three major religions in the novel.
The Shia Muslim festival of Muharram (or Mohurram) is mentioned a number of times in the novel, as the date of the festival apparently coincides with the trial of Dr. Aziz. More on this festival below (See especially pages 212 and 216.)
How do the three religions interact in this novel?
What are some of the characteristics (or stereotypes) corresponding to members of the respective three religions? (Keep in mind that of the British characters in the novel, only Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested are described as practicing/believing Christians)
Read the article on Muharram in Wikipedia. Can you imagine how the theme of mourning and self-sacrifice might fit the events of the novel?
More Muharram (Source: Wikipedia)
The Festival of Muharram is an important period of mourning in the Shi'ite
branch of Islam.
It is to mark the anniversary of the Battle
of Karbala when Husayn bin Ali, a grandson of Muhammad, was martyred. Muharram is
the first month of Islamic lunar calendar. This marks the time when Prophet
Muhammed fled Mecca
and, along with Muslims, took refuge in the city of
This festival is observed in the first month of the Hijra year, Muharram. Mourners, both male and female, congregate together (in separate sections) for sorrowful, poetic recitations performed in memory of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, lamenting and grieving to the tune of beating drums and chants of "Ya Husayn." Passion plays are also performed, reenacting the Battle of Karbala and the suffering and death of Husayn at the hands of Yazid.
Many of the male participants congregate together in public for ceremonial chest beating as a display of their devotion to Husayn and in remembrance of his suffering. In certain Shi'a societies, mainly Lebanon and Iraq, some male participants will inflict actual wounds upon themselves, though this practice is viewed as being extreme and is widely discouraged and banned in other countries with significant Shi'a populations, such as Iran.
6. Muddles and Clarity.
“India is a muddle,” Fielding says at one point. Follow the theme of “muddles” (and “echoes”), and compare this theme of confusion of chaos to the bits and pieces of clarity that certain characters in the novel experience. What allows one to escape muddles?
Who of the characters in the book is more prone to muddles? (Is anyone completely free of them?)
Questions from your response papers
Is the novel slanted so as to pose British characters – Fielding in particular – as heroes?
The novel is full of
big generalizations about
In a situation of
unequal power (British control over
English 198/Asia 198 – Spring 2006
The publication of Katherine Mayo's Mother India caused a major controversy, both inside
Disccusion: Compare E.M. Forster and Katherine Mayo.
Mother India is partly a travelogue; it has sections that describe
Discussion Question: To what extent does this book fit with other ‘travel writing’ we have seen thus far?
Mayo was originally from
Mayo had also, in 1925, published a book called Isles of Fear, where she does to the
Katherine Mayo commits one act of outright deception in the opening pages of the book. In the forward, she states that she is traveling through
For this reason the manuscript of this book has not been submitted to any member of the Government of India, nor to any Briton or Indian connected with official life. It has, however, been reviewed by certain public health officials of international eminence who are familiar with the Indian field.
And she says it again at the beginning of Chapter 1:
It was dissatisfaction with this
status that sent me to
In fact, that wasn't true; she had been in direct contact
with the British administration -- in fact, with Central Intelligence Division
(While people like Forster saw the writing on the wall,
other British were less comfortable with
‘letting go’ of
Because of the British role, we can say that Mother India is a work of Imperial propaganda. In light of the effect it had on readers in
Mayo was seen as a good candidate because she was in fact American. That helped her gain some credibility -- if she had been British, the book would likely have been received more skeptically by both British and American readers. And it also didn't hurt that the book sold extremely well in
It definitely changes a lot to know that Mayo wrote this book, essentially, as an agent of the British colonial authority.
Still, many of her statistics on things child marriage, infant mortality, and venereal disease come directly out of official documents, and census reports. And her quotes about the public child marriage debate in 1925 (which involved many Indian politicians) are
all a matter of public record: many prominent Hindus did support child marriage. (Others opposed it -- and Mayo doesn't refer to them much. Gandhi, for his part, was quite outspoken against it, and Mayo at least notes this.)
Alongside the true observations, there are many statements Mayo makes in the book that are either gross exaggerations or outright falsehoods. She piles it on so thick that she almost undoes her own argument about the evils of "Hindu tradition." If morals are in fact so debased, if hygiene is so bad, if girls are so mistreated -- how is it that the Indian population continues to grow at a healthy rate?
So we are again in position to waffle. On the one hand, Mayo's book can hardly be seen as credible, both because of her involvement with British authorities and because of her errors and exaggerations on points of substance. On the other hand, many of her points are valid, which puts Indian nationalists and Euro-American liberals in an awkward position. [We see versions of this still today, in the ongoing debates about "global patriarchy," especially in the recent push by western feminism against the repression of Muslim women by Muslim men.
Mayo's book, Mrinalini Sinha notes, was cited approvingly by the American feminist theorist Mary Daly in some of her influential books as evidence of the Indian oppression of women.
Mayo's book is exactly the kind of thing Spivak is talking about in her various critical engagements with 'western feminism' (i.e., in essays like "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism").
More than fifty books and pamphlets were published in response to Mayo's book. It also led to a Broadway play and almost made it to the movies. Here are some of the titles:
Father India (1927); Sister India (1928); My Mother India (1930); A Son of Mother India Answers (1928); Long Live India: What a Son Has to Say About Mother and Father India (1932); An Englishman Defends Mother India (1932); The Truth About Mother India (1928); Unhappy India (1928); Mother India By Those Who Know Her Better than Miss. K. Mayo (1927); Miss Mayo’s Cruelty to Mother India (no date); Mother India Ka Jawab (The Reply to Mother India) (1928); and so on.
One of the most important replies to Mother India was by Muthulakshmi Reddi, the first Indian woman legislator.
(The condition for women was generally bad in
* * *
Kali (Wikipedia entry):
Although her presentation in the West is usually as simply dark and violent, Kali is a goddess with a long and complex history in Hinduism. Her earliest history as a creature of indiscriminate violence and wrath still has some influence, while more complex Tantric beliefs sometimes extend her role so far as to be the Ultimate Reality and Source of Being. Finally, the comparatively recent devotional movement largely conceives of Kali as a straightforwardly benevolent mother-goddess. Kali is associated with many devis (goddesses) as well as the deva (god) Shiva.
Kali is generally considered one of the consorts of Shiva. Her name seems to be a female version of the word 'kala' (Sanskrit for 'dark' or 'time'- time in this form being a euphemism for death); it also means Black Female, in contrast to her consort, Shiva, who is white.
Shiva (mentioned on 84)
Shiva (or Siva) is a form of Ishvara or God in the later Vedic scriptures of Hinduism. Adi Sankara interprets the name Śiva to mean "One who purifies everyone by the utterance of His name" or the Pure One. . . . Śiva is "the destroyer", though this title can be misleading as Shiva appears in a multitude of roles. Additionally, Śiva can also mean, "the Auspicious One." He is often depicted as the husband of Uma or Parvati. In the process of manifestation, Lord Shiva is the primeval consciousness and creates the other members of the trimurti (or triumvirate -- Vishnu, Brahma being the other two Gods mentioned in connection with Shiva). He is symbolized by the wisdom of the Serpent. He has many other names, for example Shankara and Mahadev.
Shiva is the ultimate reality who is the nature of Bliss itself and all complete in Himself. He is beyond description, beyond all manifestation, beyond limitation of form, time and space. He is eternal, infinite, all pervading, all knowing and all powerful.
English 198/Asia 198
The second half of Naipaul’s India: A Wounded Civilization is essentially an extended rant about Gandhi’s failures, and the failure of the imagination of what he calls ‘Gandhianism’ in India in the 1970s, when Naipaul was writing the book.
As with many of the other travel narratives we’ve read,
Naipaul’s book refers to a number of other, earlier travelers. The most
important of these is Gandhi himself, who went in 1890 to
What were some of the difficulties to travel for Gandhi before he left his home-town in Gujurat state? Why did his family discourage him from going?
What are some of the interesting aspects of Gandhi’s
It was in
In the book, Naipaul is very critical not just of the Indian
government, but of the failure of
The development of agriculture
The modernization of business
The capacity of Indian journalists
The ability of Indian social workers to actually help the poor
Progress in Design and Architecture
Progress in Science
Originality in the arts (especially painting)
The generation of new political ideas and genuine political debate
What are the particular failures he identifies? Find the passage where he makes his criticisms.
He repeatedly argues that Indians have lost the ability to directly observe their own country. What does he mean by this? How might this problem be addressed? How do you interpret passages like the following:
When men cannot observe, they don’t
have ideas; they have obsessions. When people live instinctive lives, something
like a collective amnesia steadily blurs the past. Few educated Indians now
remember or acknowledge their serenity in 1962, before the Chinese war and the
end of the Nehru era, when Independence could still be enjoyed as personal
dignity alone, and it could be assumed, from the new possession of dignity by
so many, that India had made it or was making it. Few can interpret the
increasing frenzy of the country since then, through the
Questioning or Criticizing Naipaul himself:
This is a book that is on a mission -- we might call it a
polemic rather than a straightforward account of Naipaul’s experiences during
his travels in
Is it possible that Naipaul might be just flat out wrong
Or perhaps we could throw out just part of the argument. Is
it possible to accept what Naipaul says about the limitations of Gandhi
himself, while rejecting his claim that the continuation of Gandhianism into
the post-independence era is
We are now 30 years down the line from when this book was written. The Emergency is over and Indian democracy has returned and flourished. The problems that were ailing the country during the 1970s haven’t completely gone away, but many of the specific failures Naipaul cites have diminished to a great extent. Art, literature, journalism, science, agriculture, and business have all boomed since that period. (The legal system still has some serious problems to contend with, and the government is still somewhat inefficient at responding to problems.)
extent might the passage of time make Naipaul’s account of
English 198/Asia 198
Outsourcing is one of the most controversial issues
The two basic reasons it works are 1) the internet allows
people to do certain kinds of work anywhere in the world, and 2) there is a
major currency ‘buying power’ gap between the U.S. and India, which means that
an Indian employee can get paid 15 to 25 percent as much as an American, and
still live a pretty good life. Rent and daily cost of living expenses (i.e.,
groceries, clothes, books, other low-tech commodities) are all much cheaper in
Current exchange rate: 42 Rupees = $1 (two years ago it was 50 Rupees to a
income in the
Starting salary at an Indian call-center (college students and fresh-out-of-college): about $5,500
At banks and consulting firms, the salaries go much higher – between $15,000 and $20,000 for a consultant with an M.B.A.
Cost of a
new car (basic Maruti 900) in
Cost of a
basic new car in the
The big controversy is of course whether the advent of all
these new jobs in
Of course, there is lots of confusion about just how much
outsourcing is going on, and fierce debate about how many jobs it has cost
(some people claim that it actually might create
jobs in the
While most Indians are quite proud of the role they are playing on the global stage, there are some who have concerns about the types of jobs they are getting. Answering customer service support phone calls isn’t really a skill that will help you build a country’s economy. Sometimes these workers are referred to disparagingly as “high tech coolies,” referring to an insulting term for Indians that goes back to the 19th century.
Thomas Friedman is a senior columnist at the New York Times.
Earlier in his career he worked on hard-hitting international political issues
like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, looks closely at all of the different
issues in the various wars and disputes between Israel and its Arab neighbors,
starting in the 1940s, and moving forward through the late 1980s. That book too
was a travel memoir – and had some personal reflections, as Friedman is an
American Jew who has some criticisms of what both the
Since the mid-1990s, Friedman has been an enthusiast for
globalization – the idea that goods,
money, culture, and people move freely around the globe. Globalization
exploded partly because of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the
communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the
One side of globalization is financial and purely business.
But the spread of cultural artifacts like movies and music is also an important
part of it. American movies in particular now make more money abroad than they
do in the
The globalization era has also been a time of increased
movement of people around the world, though national borders generally haven’t
opened up as much as one would expect. (Indeed, the
English 198/Asia 198
One might wonder why there are so many voices in Love in a Dead Language. One of the reasons Siegel uses figures like Anang Saighal is to enable him to criticize Leopold Roth indirectly. And there are many moments in this part of the novel where Siegel sets up Roth – as a hypocrite, as delusional, or as even an outright sexist jerk.
look at the various ways in which the book itself criticizes Roth’s attitude
towards women and his obsession with
1. Orientalism, p. 61
This is a term we discussed briefly at the start of the semester. Edward Said wrote a book criticizing the “orientalist” view of eastern cultures – arguing that it was to a great extent an invention of the European imagination, and an effect of their power over those cultures. Orientalism, which overlaps somewhat with explicit racism, was explicit in earlier travel narratives like Katherin Mayo’s “Mother India.” But it was also present in a somewhat more benign way in A Passage to India – with references to Aziz (and even Mrs. Moore) as “Orientals.”
Read the explanation of Orientalism in Anang Saighal’s footnote.
Here is more from Said’s book Orienalism:
as the various colonial possessions [...] were useful places to send wayward
sons [...], so the Orient was a place where one could look for sexual
experience unavailable in
Explain how Orientalism might apply to this book.
2. The Peace Corps. At one points in his adolescence, Roth says he wants to join the Peace Corps. What are his motives for wanting to join the organization? What is the “joke” here? (63-64)
3. On page 69, Roth brings up a real-life British writer named Edward Sellon. His book The Ups and Downs of Life is still available (from a publisher called “Wordsworth Classic Erotica”), though I don’t find “The Delights of Hindoo Sex” anywhere on Amazon. Take a look at the footnote on him on page 69.
Why is Edward Sellon mentioned here?
4. The romance between Leopold Roth and Sophia White brings
5. There is a reference in the long footnote on page 84-85
to a film by Mira Nair called “Kama Sutra,”
which came out in 1991. Though it was funded by
6. There are numerous references to the English writer Thomas Chatterton in this book (beginning on page 107). Chatterton is famous because he wrote a famous literary forgery that took years to uncover: he invented a medieval poet named Rowley, and composed an entire series of poems in Medieval English, claiming to have merely discovered them.
In Love in a Dead Language, Aphra decides she wants to do her own literary forgery. What does she want to do and why does she want to do it?
Why is this in the book?
English 198/Asia 198
Q: I see much of your book as a satire on academia, on a white, male
professor's obsession with
A: In my understanding, satire is
moral, acrimonious, and condemnatory; it exposes and, as it comically castigates
human folly, it demands reformation. In that sense, my book isn't meant to be a
satire especially since I am, after all, a white male professor who is obsessed
and fascinated with
Discussion questions: He says that reviewers have seen the book as a satire of ‘Orientalism.’ Remind us what Orientalism is again.
He says he’s not interested in morality. Does that square with your reading of the book? Is this book moral, immoral, or amoral?
Is the original Kama Sutra (as you understand it) moral, immoral, or amoral?
How much of Love in a Dead Language is inspired by the Kama Sutra specifically and Sanskrit literature in general?
In writing Love in a Dead Language, I aspired to do for the Kama
Sutra what the Talmud did for the Torah. It's confusing to refer to the Kama Sutra, however, without
distinguishing between the scientific-sexological treatise compiled by a
Brahmin moralist in Gupta
Discussion questions: Is Siegel playing with the Kama Sutra or just the remixed idea of it that has been widely disseminated in the west? How might that distinction be significant?
General discussion questions
1. Throughout the middle part of the novel, Leopold Roth has to deal with a series of ‘foils’ – men who show up briefly and threaten to thwart his plan to seduce Lalita Gupta. One is Paul Rothberg, who runs off with Lalita and has a brief fling with her before disappearing. (He briefly reemerges later in the book, when he and Leopold have a conversation on the phone.)
Another foil is “Lee Siegel,” who shows up on page 235 and says that he too is working on a translation of the Kama Sutra.
To some extent these figures aren’t meant to be ‘real’ characters that we care about as readers. By using them, Siegel is at least partly referring back to Nabokov’s Lolita, in which the middle-aged man who has kidnapped and seduced (raped) his step-daughter is shadowed by another man who ultimately re-kidnaps her.
But he’s also doing something more. Look at pages 242-243.
2. Do you take the love affair in the book seriously? Is
this a book about love after all, or about footnotes and obsessive ideas (i.e.,
the fixation with
A passage that relates to the love affair is on page 243 (“I threw this notebook away today…”) How do you read it?
3. Over the course of their stay in
4. Starting around page 270, Leopold and Lalita are starting
to think about returning to the
5. On page 281, Lalita finally gets to ‘talk back’ to Leopold. What has she done that will cause problems for him when they get back? What might some of the complicating factors affecting them when they return?
6. Let’s look closely at Lady Isabel Burton’s letter to Leo
Delibes. Lady Burton was the real-life wife of Richard Burton, a famous
is one of
What do you make of the paragraph on the top of page 286?
English 198/Asia 198
One of the things I’ve wanted to do with this class is point
out that it’s not simply that westerners have certain ideas about
One of the biggest events was when the Beatles went to
Though the terms have changed, some element of this idea of India as a ‘holy’ place still persists for some people, though these days there is probably more interest in Tibetan Buddhism than in the kind of Hinduism that people were going to India to experience in the 1960s.
Gita Mehta’s book Karma
Cola was written in the 1980s, at the tail end of the first wave of
westerners going to
Indians were not unaware of the fad of interest in
Interesting passages: p. x (in the Introduction); pages 4-5 (“We were Indians…”); page 19; 65 (“India as bad for landscapes, unparalleled for faces”); 67-69 (Beatles). Other suggestions?
This section of the book has two very interesting sections, one historical and the other contemporary.
1. The contemporary section deals with Hijras (or Eunuchs), people who are transgendered in one way or another.
There is a very old tradition of this in Hindu society – though to be a Hijra was to be effectively cast out of society. In the Muslim tradition, eunuchs were treated with much more respect, and were trusted members of the court societies of some of the Mughal emperors. The two traditions merged after the fall of the Mughal empire.
Today Hijras live in small clans or ‘tribes’ of their own.
They pick up members when hermaphroditic or ‘queer’ children are cast out of
their own homes as unclean. They often appear at weddings, where their presence
is considered a kind of blessing or good omen. Hijras make most of their money
from wedding parties, where they demand a certain fee. Others are prostitutes,
and in fact you’ll see some begging in the streets of big cities like
See pages 171-172, and 180-181
Discussion: Dalrymple talks to two or three Hijras to get their stories. What are the stories of Razia, Panna, and Vimla?
What do you make of the fact that Dalrymple refers to Hijras as ‘she’?
How does knowledge of the Hijras
change how we might think about homosexuality and transsexual/transgender
issues in the
2. The historical
section deals with the story of Shah Jahan’s rise and fall in the 1600s. Shah
Jahan is the Mughal Emperor who built the part of
As he visits the major forts built by the Mughals in
Discussion: What kinds of stories do these travel writers tell?
What can we make of the fact that Dalrymple references these earlier travel-narratives so extensively in his book? (Remember the earlier discussion of William Fraser and James Skinner.)
Finally, there is the story of the Emperor Shah Jehan and his children. It’s a fascinating and horrible story.
The eldest son, and heir presumptive, was Dara Shukoh (sometime spelled Shikoh). What does Dalrymple tell us about Dara Shukoh? What kind of personality did he have?
The youngest son was Aurangzeb. He is the one who ultimately rebelled against his father, and took the throne. What do we know about Aurangzeb?
Two daughters were also important players, the elder Jahanara and the younger Roshanara. What was Jahanara’s role during her father’s rule? How did Roshanara help Aurangzeb defeat Dara Shukoh during her youngest brother’s rebellion?
English 198/Asia 198 – Spring 2006
Notes on Dalrymple 3/16/06
What you need to
know: The Mughal Empire dominated most of
The Mughals built roads, important
fortresses, and most importantly the Taj Mahal. Many of the rulers were
benevolent, and encouraged dialogue between different religious groups. But
some of the later Mughal Emperors were more militant (or ‘fundamentalist’), and
sometimes massacred innocent people and instituted forced conversions. Mughal
dominance was challenged first by the Portuguese, who came to
By 1757, the British established a
strong military foothold in Bengal, and chose the port city of
People like William Fraser and
James Skinner (in Dalrymple’s City of
Note: The mixed-race offspring of people like Fraser and Skinner were generally called “Anglo-Indians” or “half-castes.”
But beginning in the 1830s and 40s,
many British administrators took a dim view of such activities. Dalrymple talks
about a figure named Thomas Metcalfe, who discouraged blending in with the
natives, and had a more racially separatist idea about what the English role in
Discussion questions: ‘going native’
What are your thoughts about Europeans ‘going native’? There are many impressive, positive things about it: what are they? And what are some of the dangers of going this route?
See page 106-107
How did William Fraser die?
William Fraser’s Residency, p. 111
Compare to E.M. Forster’s description of Fielding’s house:
The room inspired him [Aziz]. It
was an audience hall built in the eighteenth century for some high official,
and though of wood had reminded Fielding of the Loggia de' Lanzi at
James Skinner was a solider, first and foremost. What are some of his experiences as a mixed-race soldier fighting on behalf of the British after 1800? (see page 129)
What are some of the other signs of the growth of racialized (or racist) thinking on the part of the British?
The Anglo-Indians after Indian independence
What happened to the Anglo-Indians after independence?
What does this say about attitudes about race and complexion
(see page 136)
English 198/Asia 198
R. K. Narayan’s “My America” is a short essay by a writer
who is quite famous in
To what extent does Narayan’s story trade on stereotypes? What
kinds of stereotypes of Americans, and what of Indians?
Dom Moraes’ “Changes of Scenery” is a kind of short memoir
by an Indian poet who moved to
What happened to him later?
How did the fact that Moraes’s mother was struggling with mental illness affect his interest in and experience abroad?
What might be unusual about
Moraes’s relationship to the English language and
Farrukh Dhondy’s “Speaking in Tongues” describes a rougher,
less pleasant experience of
What are some examples of racism Dhondy encountered in English society in the
1960s and 70s?
What do you make of Dhondy’s comments on writing in English (p. 215)?
According to Dhondy, what do writers need to learn to do to ‘get it right’? (Hint: what does he mean when he refers to the “pattern in the carpet”? [p. 216])
Ved Mehta is an Indian writer who moved to the U.S. in the
1950s to study at a school for the blind in Arkansas (at that time, there
weren’t any such schools in India, so this was really the only way for him to
get an advanced education). Mehta went on to publish many books, including
novels and memoirs, in the
What do you make of his experiences as he attempted to become a naturalized
citizen in 1969?
V.S. Naipaul is a writer of Indian descent who was born and
raised in Trinidad, amongst a large expatriated Indian population that has been
on the island since the 1850s (the vast majority of whom came as indentured
laborers who were unable to pay to return to
Salman Rushdie is a famous Indian writer based in
Abraham Verghese is a medical doctor of Indian descent
raised in both
Why does he
want to leave
What are some examples of the racism he encountered?
he mean by “
How does he
fare in rural
Why does he
end up liking
How does he respond to being put on the ‘other side of the table’, judging Indian
who wish to get hired in the
English 198/Asia 198
Meera Syal, “Indoor Language”
This is part of a novel about a ‘second generation’ Indian girl’s coming of age in a northern English industrial town, in the 1970s and 80s. The episode is pretty much self-contained: the narrator is nine, and something a bit traumatic happens to her on what is probably the Hindu holiday of Diwali (“our Christmas”).
What are some of the signs of culture clash between the narrator’s experience of
Describe the relationship between the narrator and her friend Anita.
What happens as they are walking around the town?
What happens at the mehfil (a get-together where people tend to sing popular or semi-classical songs)?
Why is the story called “Indoor Language”?
Rohinton Mistry is a writer from
the Zoroastrian community in
Take the first segment, where the narrator sees the old man in the hallway. What
does this make him think of?
What do his parents think about his letters home? Why are his letters home so
Why is he taking swimming lessons?
What is his experience with swimming at
What happens during his first swimming lesson and his subsequent swimming lessons? Does this tell us anything important about his experience (i.e., as an immigrant)?
Eventually, the narrator sends home
a book of stories he’s published while living in
How does the ending of the story affect how you read the rest of it?
Agha Shahid Ali,
“When on Route 80 in
Agha Shahid Ali was a poet from the
and discuss. How is Ali using the experience of driving through
English 198/Asia 198
Sarah Macdonald’s book Holy
Cow is an irreverent kind of travel guide. It is an enthusiastic catalogue
of her experiences on her second (long) trip to
Why is Macdonald making this second
For about how long is she going to be there?
Where is she going to be staying?
The tone of the book changes after
the first few pages (where Macdonald describes her first trip to
Indians on the street also have a rather dramatic reaction to Macdonald, but she seems ok with it (pages 16-17). She also seems more self-conscious (page 23).
One of the first things Sarah and
her boyfriend do in
What do we learn
about the city of
One of Macdonald’s points of
In one chapter, Macdonald goes to a Buddhist meditation center, where she is required to meditate for several hours a day, and not speak, read, or write. What do you make of her experience there?
Many of Sarah Macdonald’s experiences with Indian religion and spirituality in the second half of Holy Cow are more upbeat than her early encounters.
She is relatively upbeat on the Sikhs she meets in
(20-30,000 Americans not of Indian origin have converted to Sikhism; some have
Macdonald ends up having fun at a major Hindu festival
called the Kumbh Mela that she attends in the city of
Also, what do you learn about Hinduism from this chapter? (There are lots of helpful factual passages)
Of all the religious traditions she experiments with, Macdonald seems to be most attracted to Tibetan Buddhism. Why? Can you summarize the principles of Tibetan Buddhism as she explains it? What are some of the unusual features of the Tibetan Buddhist community currently based in Dharamsala?
Alongside the many Indian religions she samples, Macdonald
also devotes some time to getting to know the large number of Israelis who
spend time in
One of the harshest chapters in the book is the chapter on the Parsis of Bombay. Why are they such a small community?
The motivation for talking about narratives of travel in particular is two-fold. On the
one hand, I do think stories about traveling and travelers is inherently interesting.
It's an under-studied genre of literature, and it's quite important. It goes
back to ancient times: one of the most important books in the western tradition
is the Odyssey, and it's a travel narrative. If you look at it a certain way,
even the story of the Exodus in the Bible is a travel narrative: Moses leading
the Hebrews out of
In more recent literature, you see a turn to questions of power relations and race. In the modern world, travelers have tended to be people from powerful and wealthy societies. Travel was an essential part of European colonialism, and is virtually synonymous
with the European colonization of much of the globe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Explorers like Christopher Columbus (who was looking for
It's pretty clear that traveling was tied to this process of the growth of imperialism. But the critic Edward Said has taken it a step further, and claimed that the use of orientalism by people like Richard Burton (the first translator of The Kama Sutra) was in fact a direct asset to the imperialist project. Scholars used the knowledge they compiled to learn how to run
In that sense, the notes produced by some travelers during the colonial era might take on a rather sinister hue: they aren't just personal impressions, but might potentially be part of the handbook that help the British take and keep control of Indian society.
After Indian independence in 1947, all of that changed. Travel writing can't explicitly be thought to be an ally of a project for direct rule. But concerns linger nonetheless: what is a travel narrative going to be used for? Who is going to read it? To what extent does it
reaffirm existing prejudices and preconceptions about a foreign society ("it's dirty" "it's primitive" "there are cows in the road"), and to what extent does it challenge those preconceptions?
Even after colonialism ends, a travel narrative can still be a political text, because the relations between cultures still isn't quite equal. To put it in Thomas Friedman's terms again, the world isn't quite flat.
In recent years, there has also been the emergence of a new genre, which is the 'reverse' of the European-visits-India story. More and more Indians have been writing stories of their experiences in the west, sometimes as permanent expatriates, and sometimes merely as visitors. And just as the writings by western travelers shows their personal preoccupations and reveals their misunderstanding of the culture they encountered, the Indian travelers in the west have their own misconceptions and hang-ups to contend with. It’s a little different here – because while an Englishwoman like Adela Quested can get to India knowing nothing at all of the culture or language, it’s very rare for an educated Indian traveler to know nothing at all of the west. There is a basic asymmetry in terms of how much background cross-cultural awareness people have. (Today, most Indians know far more about
It isn’t all negative: in addition to the stories of misunderstanding (and sometimes mutual misunderstanding), a good travel narrative also tells you the story of how to learn about another culture. There is a sense of growth in many of these books, of learning to live with difference, and how to start thinking about things from a new perspective.
One bit of feedback I've heard from some of you is that you were surprised by how much history and politics we talked about in this class. In the past I've taught courses focused on
satisfied. Often students came into the class with very little background on the culture, and the books by themselves only help you learn a limited amount. I do hope you'll use what we talked about here in the future as you continue to expand your knowledge. I encourage you to read Indian fiction in particular (it's kind of a boom time for books written by Indian authors); I can give you a list of recommendations -- all things you'll find in Barnes & Noble, that I think you'd probably enjoy.
Another thing that may be on your minds is that, ok, travel narratives aren't *really* my favorite genre. Actually, that's ok, because one of the goals of looking at travel narratives is to think about the cross-cultural encounter *in general*. How does one culture look at another? How much can we understand how people in very different parts of the world live, and view the world? At the very least, in this class you learned a lot about
That's a broader question – which could apply to cultural encounter anywhere in the world – and looking at travel narratives has helped us do that. Misconceptions and prejudices exist on both sides, which is why it was important to look at Indian views of the west as well as western views of
(One of the places where this issue comes up is in thinking about things like terrorism. Why is there such hostility in the Islamic world to the
deep inside the mindset of another culture you can begin to see things you couldn't before.)
This course will really only come to fruition if you, at
some point soon, go off and do some traveling of your own. It doesn’t have
to be to a distant country like