Indian History Through Literature

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1EL9084

Semester and Year Offered: IIIrd and Vth Semester, Monsoon Semester Open for all Undergraduates

Course Coordinator and Team: Ned Bertz, Geetanjali Tyagi

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

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This lecture and discussion course focuses on the history of South Asia, with an attempt to understand the making of ‘modern’ India, through the vantage point of literature primarily in the English language. The class intends to use the backdrop of the city of Delhi – variously, the capital city of the Mughals, British Raj, and independent Indian state – to illuminate varied critical processess which have indelibly altered India in the creation of its contemporary society.

Course Outcomes: At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. interrogate their own cultural values through an open-minded and critical analysis of diverse Indian cultures as articulated in literature about India.
  2. assess the benefits of learning through contact with others from different cultural backgrounds or who hold different viewpoints, through class discussions and collaborative exercises set in the city of Delhi.
  3. develop a clear argument using recognized historical methods, based on an interpretation of primary and secondary sources (especially literature) concerning the history of the time concerned. Also, students should be able to clearly write and orally discuss their ideas about key processes in the making of ‘modern’ India based on their understanding of the relation between history and literature.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

The course is divided up into five units, each of which will be centered on a critical reading of the texts engaging with the module theme/themes concerned:

  1. Imperialism and the History of Delhi; engaging with William Dalrymple’s ‘City Of Djinns’
  2. Nationalism, Decolonization, and Partition; discussing Urvashi Butalia’s ‘Other Side of Silence’, ‘Amartya Sen’s ‘Identity and Violence: Illusion of Destiny’
  3. Post-Independent National Identities; reading, Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’,
  4. Religious Connections and Communalism; reading many writings by Saadat Hasan Manto, Khushwant Singh’s ‘Train to Pakistan,’
  5. Globalization, Class, and Caste; discussing, Arvind Adiga’s‘The White Tiger’ and Vassanji’s ‘The Assassin’s Song’

Assessment Details with weights:

Assignments will require a thoughtful analysis of our shared texts together with presentations from independent and collaborative research at locations across the city of Delhi.
Tentative Assessment structure:

  • 30% Thought piece with class presentations
  • 30% Take-home reflection piece with journal write up
  • 40% End Semester in-class examination as per SUS schedule

Reading List:

  1. Metcalf, Barbara D. and Thomas R. Metcalf. ‘A Concise History of Modern India’, 3rd ed. Cambridge, 2007.
  2. Dalrymple, William. ‘City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi’,1993.
  3. Singh, Khushwant. ‘Train to Pakistan’ 1956.
  4. Rushdie, Salman. ‘Midnight’s Children’ 1980.
  5. Vassanji, M. G. ‘The Assassin’s Song’ 2007.
  6. Adiga, Aravind. ‘The White Tiger’ 2008
  7. Sen, Amartya, ‘Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny’,2007


  1. Lahiri, Jhumpa, ‘The Namesake’, 2007
  2. Ghosh, Amitav, ‘Sea of Poppies’, 2009
  3. Butalia, Urvashi,’The Other Side of Silence’, 2017 New Edition
  4. Manto, Saadat Hasan, ‘Dastavej, Volume 1 to 5’, 2016
  5. Select Movie and documentary screenings concerning the themes of the course.