Posted by: gdevi | November 3, 2016

English 404 The Literature of Exile and Migration (Spring 2017)

Dr. Gayatri Devi

Spring 2017

English 404 Advanced Topics in World Literature

The Literature of Exile and Migration

Course description

Both exile—the state of being away from one’s homeland either through choice or by force—and migration—the state of losing one’s birthland and adopting a new homeland either through choice or by force– have provided rich material for story-telling in the western and the non-western world.  The Babylonian exile, the wanderings of the Jewish diaspora, the tribulations of Odysseus, the exile of Rama and the Pandava princes in the Indian epics and other texts from Biblical, Greco-Roman and Asian antiquity provide us with some of the earliest templates to understand what it means to be homeless in the world.  If the twentieth century saw the end of colonialism and imperialism around the world, and the rise of nationalisms and the formation of nation-states often constructed through narrow racial eyes, the twenty first century has seen the dismantling of these nation-states, of exile, refugees, transnational migration and the making of a new global citizen through a bitter and painful birthing process. The identity of a migrant or a refugee is a lightning rod for political controversy in our own current historical moment.

In this course, we will read several texts from around the world that address the experiences of human exile and migration, including what it means to be a migrant, refugee or part of a diaspora.  How do exile and migration affect one’s sense of identity? What does it mean to lack a homeland? How do migrants, refugees or the diaspora envision the absent homeland? What is the role of nostalgia in constructing narratives about home?  Do men and women experience exile and migration in a similar way? We will explore the meanings of the following terms through our theoretical and literary readings: citizen, nation, home, nostalgia, mother tongue, refugee, migrant, diaspora, transnationalism, globalization, occupation etc.

In addition to canonical texts about exile and migration from the antiquity, we will read the following full length accounts: Dostoevsky’s Siberian exile account Memoirs from the House of the Dead, the South African novelist Bessie Head’s haunting account of exile in Botswana, A Question of Power, the Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi’s The Ship of Fools, the Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah, and Iraqi novelist Iqbal al-Qazvini’s Zubaida’s Window. All readings are in English translation.

“پردہ نہیں جب کوئی خدا سے بندوں سے پردہ کرنا کیا؟”


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