Hist 214, U Mass Boston: Glimpsing History through the Eyes of …

April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

I met John Mathew

 

 

photo: Varsha Yeshwant Kumar

 

 

in Cambridge, Massachusetts many years ago when he was working at Harvard’s natural history museum while also working on his PhD. We discovered many common interests, particularly in the history of 19th century science in India. He is the only person I know who shares my interest in the cantankerous Edward Blyth (1810-73) who was for many years the superintendent of the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta (from him comes the blythii that is attached to the scientific names of so many species of Asian animals).

John is also a playwright and director and has won a BBC prize for his radio play Grave Affairs. The play was later produced and broadcast by the BBC. John then adapted the play for the stage, and took it on tour in New England with a group which he co-founded, the South Asian American Theatre (SAATh).

The title of John’s PhD thesis is: ‘To Fashion a Fauna for British India’. Harvard awarded him the degree  a few months ago.

John wrote to me recently to say: ‘I’m offering a course on Modern World History called ‘Glimpsing history through the eyes of Amitav Ghosh,’ where I use six of your works and essays on most of them from ‘Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Reader’. In a later e-mail he added: ‘My students … take turns presenting on the books (in groups) – one of the first lot (dealing with The Shadow Lines) was particularly overcome towards the end of the novel, because it resonated deeply with her own time in Iraq (she had served there along with troops, though she may have been a para-medic) and would at the time have loved to have posed questions to you. Clearly the works are having an impact! ‘

 

The syllabus is below:

 

HIST 214: Modern World History/ GLIMPSING HISTORY THROUGH THE EYES OF AMITAV GHOSH
U MASS BOSTON SPRING SEMESTER, 2012
Instructor: John Mathew
Course Number: 1890 Section Number: 01
Tuesday, Thursday: 9:30 – 10:45 a.m.
Wheatley Hall / 1st Floor / Room: 058
Office: McCormack, 4th Floor, Room 431
Email: thoughtheybered@gmail.com
Office Hours: By Appointment Tues/ Thurs 10:50 am to 12:00 pm

Course Description:
Employing the writings of the celebrated anthropologist, essayist and novelist, Amitav Ghosh, this course explores the worlds of imperialism and decolonization in places as far-flung as Egypt, Mauritius, Burma and India. Aspects such as colonial science and modern ecology find their way into the corpus, as do critical discussions of race, class and gender.

Required Texts (available in the UMass Bookstore)

Author: Amitav Ghosh

The Shadow Lines: A Novel (New York: Mariner Books, 2005) ISBN-10: 061832996X ISBN-13: 978-0618329960
In An Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveller’s Tale (New Delhi: Permanent Black/Ravi Dayal) ISBN-10: 817530040X ISBN-13: 978-8175300408
The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001) ISBN-10: 0380813947 ISBN-13: 978-0380813940
The Glass Palace: A Novel (New York: Random House, 2002) ISBN-10: 0375758771 ISBN-13: 978-0375758775
The Hungry Tide: A Novel (New York: Mariner Books, 2006) ISBN-10: 061871166X ISBN-13: 978-0618711666
Sea of Poppies (New York: Picador, 2009) ISBN-10: 0312428596

All assigned readings will be from the required books, e-texts or class handouts.

All students will be expected to have done the assigned readings before coming to class and be prepared to participate in class discussions. The course as a whole will include lectures and discussion, reading and analyzing fiction from different regions/ countries, viewing a film, response papers (some of which will be in-class, others announced as take-homes), quizzes and a final short paper.

Attendance is required for the course. More than three absences will result in a lowered grade.
Make-up policies: papers are due on the date indicated on the syllabus. Students must consult me before the due date to arrange an alternate schedule. Similarly, students are expected to take the quizzes on the scheduled dates. Failure to make arrangements ahead of time will result in a “0” grade for that particular assignment.

Grading:
Quizzes: 30% (15% each)
Class discussion and presentations: 30%
Final paper: 40%. Guidelines will be discussed in class.

January 24th: Introduction. No required reading

January 26th: Robert Dixon, ‘Travelling in the West – The Writings of Amitav Ghosh’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.)

January 30th: Add/Drop Ends

January 31st: Robert Dixon, ‘Travelling in the West – The Writings of Amitav Ghosh’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.)

February 2nd: The Shadow Lines (1st half)

February 7th: The Shadow Lines (2nd half)

February 9th: Jon Mee, ‘The Burthen of the Mystery – Imagination and Difference in The Shadow Lines’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.)

February 14th:  Presentation on The Shadow Lines

February 16th: In An Antique Land (1st half)

February 21st: In An Antique Land (2nd half). Presentation by finalist for the South Asia and Islam faculty position.

February 23rd: Leela Gandhi, ‘A Choice of Histories – Ghosh vs. Hegel in In An Antique Land’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.) and Padmini Mongia, ‘Medieval Travel in Post-colonial Times – Amitav Ghosh’s In An Antique Land’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.)

February 28th: Presentation on In An Antique Land

March 1st: Quiz 1 (On The Shadow Lines and In An Antique Land).

March 6th: Movie (Earth 1st half)

March 8th: Movie (Earth 2nd half)

March 20th: The Calcutta Chromosome (1st half)

March 22nd: The Calcutta Chromosome (2nd half)

March 27th: John Thieme, ‘The Discoverer Discovered – Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.) and Tabish Khair, ‘Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome – The Question of Subaltern Agency’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.)

March 29th: Presentation on The Calcutta Chromosome

April 3rd: The Glass Palace (1st half)

April 5th: Pass/Fail Deadline, Course Withdrawal Deadline. The Glass Palace (2nd half)

April 10th: Rukmini Bhaya Nair, ‘The Road from Mandalay – Reflections on Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace’ In Amitav Ghosh, A Critical Companion (Tabish Khair, ed.)

April 12th: Presentation on The Glass Palace

April 17th: Quiz Two (on The Calcutta Chromosome and The Glass Palace)

April 19th: The Hungry Tide (1st half)

April 24th: The Hungry Tide (2nd half)

April 26th: Presentation on The Hungry Tide

May 1st: Sea of Poppies (1st half)

May 3rd: Sea of Poppies (2nd half)

May 8th: Presentation on Sea of Poppies

May 18th (due): Take home final examination – 8-10 page paper on either The Hungry Tide or Sea of Poppies – via e-mail by 11:59 PM.

STANDARD CAVEATS:
Academic Honesty and Student Conduct: It is the expressed policy of the University that every aspect of academic life, not only formal coursework situations, but all relationships and interactions connected to the educational process, shall be conducted in an absolutely and uncompromisingly honest manner. The University presupposes that any submission of work for academic credit indicates that the work is the student’s own and is in complia


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