Contemporary Literatures from Northeast India: Poetry and Fiction

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1EL915/SUS1EN2774

Semester and Year Offered: MS2017, MS2018, MS2019 (3rd Semester)

Course Coordinator and Team: Shelmi Sankhil

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

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This course introduces students to contemporary literatures from northeast of India. Literary writing in the various languages found in the region is not of recent origin. However, writing in English is not very old either. As for those communities for whom literacy is a twentieth century phenomenon, imaginative writing marks an important phase in their society’s transition from orality to the literary.

The course proposes to closely engage with the poetics and modes of literary articulation of the selected poets/writers. The course also presumes that these cultural artefacts both constitute and reflect the evolving realities of the communities of their origination. Within a comparative frame, different modes of literary reading will be introduced to acquaint and equip the student for meaningful encounters with literary texts. The course will also explore the historical underpinnings and contemporary implications of the iterative term “northeast” as a political and literary category.

Course Outcomes: By extending the scope of engaged scholarship to the literary artefacts of communities existing on the margins of history and political geography, students are expected

  1. To be more receptive and understanding of the diversity of India, thereby fostering an accommodative attitude of fraternity.
  2. To have improved their hermeneutical skills in not just reading literary texts comparatively, but human experience as a whole.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: Introductory: In this module reading framework of the course will be set by introducing the historical, cultural, political, geographical and linguistic terrains of the region. The module will also discuss the different modes of comparative reading and approaches to literary texts and their suitability for the course.

  • John Downing, “What is Comparative Reading?” Journal of Reading Vol.21, No. 8 (May,1978), pp.701-704
  • Selections from Amit Baishya. Contemporary Literature from the Northeast: Deathworlds, Terror and Survival. Routledge, 2018

Module 2: Poetry: This module contains five poems from “representative” poets from Arunachal, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram. The module’s approach is to read these poems in terms of their form and influence, while also closely following the evocative imageries that are unique to the place and history of their origin.


““For a Better Tomorrow”: Lalrinmawii Khiangte;

“Voice of the Mountain”:Mamang Dai

“The Rock”: Nini Lungalang.

Earthy” : Anupama Basumatary. Tr. from Assamese by Pradip Acharya

“To my Son”: Nilim Kumar. Tr. from Assamese by Rupanjali Baruah.

“Eklavya of the Longtarai”: Bijoy Kumar Debbarma. Tr. from Kokborok by Bhaskar Roy Burman

“The Border”: Narendra Debbarma. Tr. from Kokborok by Bamapada Mukharjee.

* These poems are all taken from The Oxford Anthology of Writings from North-East India: Poetry. OUP, 2010 by Tilottoma Misra.

Module 3: Short Stories: Three stories set in Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya will be read in this module. The stories represent some pertinent themes like violence against women, secessionist movements, social fragmentation and identity consciousness occasioned by the coming of modernity, etc. The chief goal of this module is to undertake a comparative reading of the texts in the context of the region’s heterogenous reality.


“The Magical Power of the Necktie”

Wan Kharkrang. Tr. by Kynpham S. Nonkynrih

“The Crossroads at Mukindon” by Moushmi Kandali. Tr. from Assamese by Swargajyoti Gohain.

“The Mauled Cub” by Tayengbam Bijoykumar Singh

* These stories are all taken from The Oxford Anthology of Writings from North-East India: Fiction. OUP, 2010 by Tilottoma Misra.

Module 4: Novels: Two novels by two established women novelists from Nagaland and Assam will be read in this module. Their works address similar issues raised in the texts contained in the two modules before. However, the form of the novel allows for a more in-depth exploration and representation of experiences that are largely specific to the region. The module will also discuss the factors that both influence and contribute in making fiction writing in English a primary domain of women among the Northeast communities for whom education came with and after their encounter with colonialism.


The Collector’s Wife by Mitra Phukan

Son of the Thundercloud by Easterine Kire

Assessment Details with weights:

  • 20% : Review of any literary work from the Northeast will be one component. The other will be a quiz-like assessment based on the readings and lectures in this module:
  • 40% as Mid-Term : Students will be required to demonstrate ability in thematic reading of the texts.
  • 40% as End-Term : Questions will test textual knowledge and comparative reading ability of the student.


  • Margaret Zama Emerging Literatures from Northeast India: The Dynamics of Culture, Society and Identity. Sage Publication, 2013.
  • Rajesh Verma. History of Northeast India. Mittal Publication, 2013
  • Tilottoma Misra: “Intoroduction” to The Oxford Anthology of Writings from North-East India: Fiction. OUP, 2010
  • Veio Pou. Literary Cultures of India’s Northeast: Naga Writings in English. Heritage Publishing House, 2015