The refurbished M.A. English syllabus of Bangalore University has now made space for Harry Potter, Mills & Boon, Dostana and Slumdog Millionaire. Students and teachers alike welcome the change, discovers Neeti Sarkar
Those were the days when a postgraduate student of English Literature would be immersed in Derrida's theory on post-structuralism or in Chomsky's views on language acquisition. That was when they would wax eloquent about Chaucer's “Canterbury Tales” and spew Homer's “Iliad” as if they were witnesses of the Trojan War.
Cut to 2011 when universities around the world are revamping their syllabus and making it modern-day friendly. Including “Popular Culture” and “Gender Studies” in mainstream Literature has become the order of the day.
If the renowned Jamia Milia University incorporated rock legend Bob Dylan's writings and the works of Jhumpa Lahiri and Amartya Sen, among a host of other fiction and non-fiction writings of critically-acclaimed authors and essayists in its M.A. English course, Bangalore University isn't lagging too far behind.
The refurbished M.A. English syllabus of B.U. has now made space for Harry Potter, Mills & Boon, “Dostana” and “Slumdog Millionaire” among other texts and films.
Students are upbeat about having characters out of their favourite novels grace their textbooks. Those involved in the education process don't think this trend has sounded the death knell for literature either.
According to Anil Pinto, Assistant Lecturer, Dept of Media Studies, Christ University, “Pop culture very much needs to be part of M.A. English courses because it encodes within its texts, crucial insights into the time and spaces that produce them. A few of the important turns that M.A. English curriculum witnessed in the last two decades — post-structuralism, feminism, post-colonialism and most importantly cultural studies, have ensured the inevitability of moving away from old paradigms of ‘literary' texts to broader category of texts, which include popular culture texts.”
He adds, “In our contexts, mainstream Bollywood films like ‘Rang De Basanti', ‘Three Idiots', M&B, and Amar Chitra Katha would be important texts to study.” Deemed universities like Christ University's M.A. English and B.A. English Honours programmes have a paper in Popular Culture. Some of the texts being used for pop culture B.A. are “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Cinderella”, “Jataka Tales”, “Panchatantra”, “Draupadi”, ”Rani of Jhansi”, Robin Cook's “Fever” and Robert Ludlum's “The Bourne Identity.”
Corporate trainer and former English teacher Angel Papali says: “Considering the fact that language is constantly evolving and that trends are developing on a daily basis, it may not be a bad idea to introduce pop culture, lyrics, et al into mainstream literature.
However, that would not mean one should dispense with the old stalwart ideas and concepts that have been like the building blocks of language. “
Given a choice, she says: “I would've been thrilled to have pop lyrics introduced in my M.A. as a genre of literature, especially those of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Collins or Eric Clapton, or even Savage Garden or Alanis Morisette.
It would have been wonderful to be able to study the mechanics of the art of writing lyrics that have pith and are meaningful to society. Maybe one could have then turned one's poetic urges to words of song!”
Manisha Ratnam, a student of Literature is upbeat about the change and says: “It's going to be more fun keeping literature contemporary. Students won't really have to bunk a Lit class now!”
Her mother, an English lecturer, Suhasi Ratnam feels: “We might be open to this change but to embrace it fully, it would take time. Framing the syllabus, setting question papers, evaluating answer scripts would also take up more time and effort than usual.”
The fact that Literature cannot exist without society and that the society we live in is itself evolving everyday proves that pop culture mirrors the times we live in.
But how and when other varsities and institutions take this forward is only for time to tell.
Universities in the country are revamping their Literature syllabus
Bangalore University's M.A. Lit students will study Harry Potter, M&B, “Dostana”, etc
Academicians and students welcome the change
The only hitch involved is the time and effort spent refurbishing the syllabus