Sunday, May 18, 2008

Non-Western Literature Student Learning Analyses: Team Shortstack on Kincaid and Devi

I'm experimenting this year with adding blogging into the mix of things students do in my courses. So this semester I'll be posting post-group research/teaching project learning analyses from students in my Non-Western Literature course. The students' task in this assignment, one dimension of many they're being assessed on in this project, is simply to identify the one or two most interesting things they learned about the text and or writer on which they presented as a result of the planning, research, teaching, and reflection/assessment process they went through in doing the project. These are not meant to be full-blown analytical/interpretive/argumentative critical essays, but instead little personal, subjective pieces on what the text they taught meant to them.

Here's the sixth batch, from Team Shortstack, on Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place and the first two stories from Mahasweta Devi's Imaginary Maps.


Here's Terry:

Although we covered two works for our group presentation I was most interested in Mahasweta Devi’s Imaginary Maps and decided to cover that as my contribution to the group effort. In doing my research I learned a lot about Devi as an author, the history of and present day India, and gained a deeper understanding of what she was trying to accomplish with Imaginary Maps.

One thing that really surprised me about Devi was that she did not come from the indigenous tribes that she is fighting for, but from a somewhat privileged background with literary parents. She writes with such a passion I assumed she had a stake in her struggle to get the message out that these people are being oppressed. It was a powerful notion to me that this was not the case; she simply saw a great injustice and decided to try to do something about it. In being both a writer and an activist Mahasweta Devi reminded me of Arundhati Roy, another powerful Indian author that I read this semester. Though I didn’t bring it up in class I found it interesting that they both received the Sahitya Akademi award, an organization supported by the Indian government. While Devi accepted the award, Roy declined. Although Roy is much more critical of the Indian government, I would think that Devi would make that decision also since the Indian government still bears some of the responsibility for many of the injustices she fights against.

I didn’t know anything about Devi before I dived into reading her work. Something that surprised me was that when reading Imaginary Maps I felt that these stories must be taking place in the 19th century, or at least the early 20th. The stories are so rife with themes of slavery and organized oppression that I felt like there was no way that they could be taking place in a contemporary country. I thought an industrialized nation like India would be making strides in human rights. I got a real sense of futility for these tribes because it seems as though the this practice of a hierarchical caste system and bonded-labor system are so entrenched in rural India that despite the fact that both discrimination based on caste and bonded-labor are illegal they still exist in society de facto. After learning about Devi and her activism I feel like she is a hero to the forgotten peoples of India, and I sincerely hope she experiences success in her struggle.


Here's Kelly Jean Doherty:

Out of the two books that my group presented I think that Kincaid had a greater effect on me. I had never really thought about what it meant to be a tourist, especially in a small and poverty-stricken place. I realized that what may be vacation to some is hell for others. It is not right to disregard customs of a place simply so that one can get away for awhile. The book was touching in that one sees how the natives may view the tourist. I will think twice about going to other places now. I may be more aware of the fact that I should be enjoying a place for what it truly is, not some sweet spot that has been made for the tourist by some western agent of travel. One would want to pick a place to visit carefully after reading this book. I certainly would! Kincaid is an amazing writer and I plan to read many more of her works.


And here's Paul:

I felt guilty about being a tourist a little bit. I always feel a little out of place not matter where I go in life. Now I will feel further out of place due to Jamaica Kincaid’s novel A Small Place. Ultimately, I feel overprivileged.

I enjoyed reading A Small Place. I liked it because it had this sarcastic wit to it. When I write an essay or a script I write with a sarcastic wit. It’s nice to see something like a sarcastic wit has survived. Having the right smidgen of wit adds to the ease of reading, making a read faster and harsher than before. The subject matter was also interesting.

Tourism is money. Money people tend to enjoy when they use it to buy things. Money can corrupt a people or government. I enjoy money. I don’t have much money because I am a stereotype of a college student. Though I did not make enough last year to pay taxes; I still felt guilty about having what little money I did have. I felt that white guilt that I rarely feel. I ultimately felt overprivileged. America is a little overprivileged. People in third world countries must look at America and think “They have so much food they're fueling their cars with it!”

I’ve ran out of things to say. The book is enjoyable and fast paced. The book is a real nice read. Perfect for any nice sunny summer day beneath a tree or reading location.


Up last (but not least) is Team Wolverines on Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

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