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ASIAN 206 A: Literature and Culture of South Asia from Tradition to Modernity

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
SAV 130
Jennifer Dubrow
Jennifer Dubrow

Syllabus Description:

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Modern Literature of South Asia

Autumn 2021


Link to Course Schedule


Instructor:  Prof. Jennifer Dubrow


Office Hours: TTh 4:30-5 PM and by appointment. Zoom ID for office hour:

Class Times and Place: TTh 2:30-4:20 PM, on Zoom. Link to Zoom class meetings:

Course Description:

This course introduces the modern literature of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.) from the eighteenth century to the present. We will read a selection of novels, short stories, and poetry drawn from the diverse literary traditions of the region. Major readings include Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, short stories about the partition of India and other topics, Umrao Jan Ada, a novel about a nineteenth-century courtesan, and ghazal poetry. All works will be read in English translation. At the end of the course, we will have a class musha'irah (poetry recitation), in which students will present their own original English ghazals.

Course Goals:

  • To analyze and appreciate the major texts covered in this course (Exit West, short stories, ghazal poetry by Mir, Umrao Jan Ada)
  • To become familiar with South Asian literatures and literary traditions, as well as their relationship to historical, political, and social contexts. 
  • To develop our own critical responses to the readings
  • To learn about the poetic tradition of the ghazal and compose our own original ghazals in English

Required Books:

The only required book for this course is Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books, 2018), available on Amazon, and also at the University Bookstore.

All other readings will be provided as PDF on the Canvas website.

I recommend buying Exit West ASAP, as we will start with this book. As a back-up option: Exit West is available only for a single user at a time through the UW Library. That means that only 1 student in this course may use it at a time (unfortunate, I know). Paper copies are preferred, because we'll be referring to page numbers together in class and it's easier to annotate.

Assignments and Grading:

The final grade in Asian 206 will be comprised of the following factors:

  • A weekly response to the readings posted on the course discussion board, in which you copy passages or sentences that struck you as important, interesting, worthy of discussion, or confusing and say why it struck you that way; raise questions related to the reading; or write 3-4 sentences about what an idea in the reading made you think of or how you would respond to it critically. This is not a plot summary, but rather a chance for you to engage with the reading before class discussion. The lowest two grades will be dropped (i.e., you can miss 2 responses without penalty). To be posted by 11 AM on either Tuesday or Thursday in Weeks 2-10, except Weeks 4 and 7, which have different deadlines. There is no response due in Week 9 (Thanksgiving week). Credit/no credit. 15 points.
  • 2 short responses (of between 1-4 pages double-spaced), in response to Exit West and the short story unit. Due on Monday, Oct. 25 (for Exit West) by 5 PM and Monday, Nov. 15 (for the short story unit) by 5 PM. Graded on a 20-point scale. 40 points.
  • A ghazal project, in which you compose some original verses (she'r) in English. Guidelines. 10 points.
  • Participation in class discussions as a group and in breakout rooms. 15 points.
  • A take-home final assignment (of 3-4 pages), in response to Umrao Jan Ada and possibly other topics. 20 points.

Student Responsibilities:

Students are responsible for carrying out assigned readings by the dates specified. Please have your copy of the reading available for you to use during the Zoom sessions. If for any reason you are unable to attend a class session, please find out from another student what was covered in that session. If you are ill, there is no need to contact the instructor; however, if you have a major illness or life event that will cause you to miss more than one class, please email me so that we may make any necessary arrangements.  Please do let me know if a major life event happens during the quarter that you would like to discuss.

Attendance vs. Participation in Class:

I will take attendance in class, and will use the Canvas Attendance feature to do this, as it allows both you and me to easily keep track of who was in which class. Canvas calculates the percentage of your attendance in class. Please note that this is not the same as your participation grade. Your attendance percentage will not affect your participation grade. Rather, your participation grade is based on the quality and quantity of your participation in class, whether by asking a question, responding to a question, reading aloud, presenting group work to the class, or bringing a passage to read to class.

Rule of thumb for participation: All students should try to participate at least once in every class, but no more than 3 times/class.

Plagiarism and Academic Honesty:

Students are expected to abide by all University of Washington regulations concerning plagiarism and academic honesty. Plagiarism is defined as using in your own work the creations, ideas, words, inventions, or work of someone else without formally acknowledging them through the use of quotation marks, footnotes, bibliography, or other reference. Please check with your instructor if you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism. Instances of plagiarism will be referred to the Vice Provost/Special Asst to the President for Student Relations and may lead to disciplinary action. It is your responsibility to be aware of the university's standards for academic conduct. A good summary can be found at: (Links to an external site.).

Course Policies:

Zoom Best Practices:

Due to COVID-19, this quarter will be taught largely remotely using Zoom. There are links to the Zoom meetings for this class on the Zoom portion on Canvas (see Zoom on the menu on the lefthand portion of your screen). Office hours will also be conducted during Zoom.

Some tips about Zoom best practices:

  • Please be sure to mute yourself when not speaking.
  • Please do keep your video on during class unless I am giving a longer lecture. I will let you know when it's not important to have your video on. 
    • If your computer does not have a camera, you could try using your phone for class. The UW has a technology loan program and may be able to lend you a laptop or tablet:
  • The UW recommends that you create a dedicated space where you live for participating in online classes.
  • Feel free to use the Chat function to communicate with the instructor or the class as a whole as we work.

When we meet in-person, you are required to adhere to the UW's masking policy.

For students outside the US:

Faculty members at U.S. universities – including the University of Washington – have the right to academic freedom which includes presenting and exploring topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events.
If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws.
If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.

Disability Accommodations:

If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz Hall, (206) 543-8924. If you have a letter from DSO indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor during the first week of the term so that we can discuss appropriate arrangements.

Religious Accommodations:

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form ( (Links to an external site.).


Catalog Description: 
Introduction to medieval and modern South Asian literature in its cultural context. Texts in English translation.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
April 14, 2021 - 5:22am