South Asian Masculinities and Femininities: Concepts of Gender in South Asian Literature (WS 2020-21

TU Dresden | Wintersemester 2020 / 2021 South Asian Masculinities & Femininities: Concepts of Gender in South Asian Literature (WS 2020-21)

South Asian Masculinities & Femininities: Concepts of Gender in South Asian Literature (WS 2020-21)

This seminar is intended for students who are interested in a) bridging the gulf between literary and cultural studies, b) learning about postcolonial and gender studies, and c) reading/watching remarkable texts (in a wider sense) which draw a fascinating picture of South Asian culture and gender politics. Therefore, this seminar does not only serve as an introduction to Sri Lankan literature and culture as well as to the major tenets of postcolonial and gender studies but also enables students to put this knowledge into practice.

In the centre of our analysis are two major Sri Lankan novels, i.e. Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy and Romesh Gunesekera’s Heaven's Edge. In both novels, we will focus on how masculinity and femininity is conceived and ask what the relationship between individual (masculine, feminine, queer etc.) gender identity and society is like in a war-torn country. Whereas Gunesekera’s novel has been characterized as a lyrical book “about a young man searching for his father and his lover in a war-torn tropical island” and as a “strange mix of New Age politics, magical-realism, and multicultural fabulism” (Kirkus Review), Selvadurai's award-winning novel Funny Boy was “hailed as one of the most powerful renditions of the trauma of the prevailing ethnic tensions in contemporary Sri Lanka.” As a matter of fact, Funny Boy is not only a “poignant coming-of-age novel” (Publishers Weekly) and a book about growing up gay in Sri Lanka, it also “brings together the struggles of sexuality, ethnicity and class”.

In the third part of this seminar, we will watch Frangipani – a well-known Sri Lankan film about being gay in a highly traditional society – and discuss the film with its producer, Visakesa Chandrasekaram via Skype or Zoom. In order to give us an additional, non-European perspective on the texts and films discussed, several guest speakers will contribute to this seminar, i.e. Prof. Neloufer de Mel, Prof. Shermal Wijewardene or Prof. Neluka Silva, all from the University of Colombo.

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