E 379S • Slumdogs and Millionaires: Class and Indian Fiction
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
The recent success of /Slumdog Millionaire/ (2008) has reopened discussions about the representation of class and poverty in India. The reactions to the film have been intensely partisan: some of have praised the humanizing of the poor while others have remarked that the fantastic rags-to-riches romance hinders any serious investigation of poverty. At every occasion, though, this discussion of class and poverty has been irrigated by the ideological streams of the middle and upper-classes, especially when it comes to their own solutions to and strategies for dealing with the persistence of poverty. Still, this representation of the poor, the underclass, the peasant, is shrouded in a patina of authenticity: this is how the poor really survive and imagine their life worlds. These aesthetic moves have become even more important in recent years as ruling parties in India have sought to demonstrate the country's viability as a major world economic power. In the 2009 elections, for instance, the Indian National Congress Party ran television ads touting its economic policy credentials, set to the tune of "Jai Ho!" (the final song-and-dance sequence of the film). At the heart of all discussions of poverty are questions of blame, and this course will interrogate how aesthetic strategies intersect with certain ideological moves in the representation of Indian poverty. We will begin the course with Vikas Swarups /Q&A/ (the novel on which /Slumdog Millionaire/ was based) and examine alternative representations of poverty from the banal (/English, August/) to the magical (/God of Small Things/), from the gritty (/Delhi Noir/) to the witty (/White Tiger/), in order to map out the range of strategies used to aestheticize and politicize poverty.
Paper proposal, 2-3 pages (10%); Rough draft, 8-10 pages (25%); Annotated Bibliography, at least ten sources (15%); Final Paper, 15-20 pages (30%); Blog posts, every week, 250 words (10%); Participation (10%).
Adiga, White Tiger; Chatterjee, English, August; Chaudhuri, The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature; Desai, The Inheritance of Loss; Mistry, A Fine Balance; Roy, God of Small Things; Sawhney (ed.), Delhi Noir; Sinha, Animal's People; Swarup, Q&A.