ENGL 327
Fictions of the British Raj Spring 2010
Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
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The great impact of the British Raj–the 200-year dominion of the British Empire over most of the Indian subcontinent–on the people of what we now know as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh sometimes leads us to forget how powerfully India influenced the British in turn. British colonizers found themselves both fascinated and, in turn, subtly shaped by the largely imaginary India that their ideology had led them to project, and as the Empire’s struggle to control a vast and bewilderingly diverse land showed increasing strains, they were forced to recognize the ways in which what it meant to be English had been distorted and re-defined by their projections and by the exercise of their own power. Conversely, educated Indians were induced to construct for themselves hybrid, Anglicized identities and modes of behavior that complicated their social and political relations with the less fortunate majority of their fellow Indians. This course focuses principally on fiction about India written in English during the last half-century of the Raj (1900-1947), by both Indian and British novelists. In it we will consider such issues as what it might mean to be “authentically” Indian; how religion and caste complicate political identity and behavior in British India; to what extent adapting to British structures of authority–even simply writing in English–may compromise an Indian’s efforts to speak and act for his or her people; how the politics of colonization are reflected in ideologies and conflicts of gender; in what ways the identity and social relations of both Anglo-Indian and indigenous communities were changed by the emergence of nationalist movements such as Gandhi’s Congress party and the Muslim League; and how such socio-political issues are mediated in the successive modes of fiction (Victorian romance, modernism, social realism) adopted by the writers we will study. While some readings will introduce important religious and political contexts, as well as theoretical models for understanding colonialist ideologies, our principal analytic attention will be literary, focused on novels such as Kipling’s Kim, Forster’s A Passage to India, Narayan’s Swami and Friends, Anand’s Untouchable, and Rao’s Kanthapura. We will also study films by the great Indian director Satyajit Ray, and may read one or two works translated into English from Bengali (e.g., Tagore’s The Home and the World) or set in our period but written after it (e.g., Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children).
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 25
Expected: 15
Class#: 3644
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation in class discussions, two papers, and a final exam
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Enrollment Preferences: English majors
Distributions: Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative

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