Pashmina Murthy teaches African and South Asian literatures, literary theory, and postcolonial urbanism. Her ongoing book project is on space and orientation in the Global South novel. She is also the co-director of the Global South Project at Cornell University. In 2016, she won the junior Trustee Teaching Excellence Award. In 2018-2019, she will be the director of the Comparative World Literature Concentration.
2007 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ of Southern California
2001 — Master of Arts from University of Mumbai, India
1999 — Bachelor of Arts from University of Mumbai, India
Courses Recently Taught
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of department chair. Offered every year.
What gives a literary text its meaning? Does a text simply contain meaning, or is that meaning shaped by social contexts, history, even the act of reading itself? Literary theory attempts to answer these questions by examining the ways in which we interpret the texts we read. This course will introduce students to some of the most important movements in literary theory over the last century with a particular focus on structuralism and poststructuralism, Marxism, feminism, deconstruction and postcolonialism. In addition, we will read short stories and two or three novels to develop our skills at reading and writing with theory. Autobiographical writing allows us to study the complicated cultural and personal dynamics of self-making, as individual authors define (and show themselves to have been defined by) their sociohistorical circumstances. How do writers confront or capitalize on such intersections of the personal and the historical? How and why do autobiographers translate life experiences into writing? How do they grapple with elements of experience that are difficult to represent in language? Is truth necessary to -- or even possible in --- autobiographical writing? How have writers' gendered, sexualized, classed, raced or geographically located identities shaped the possibilities and purposes of autobiographical narrative? And where is the line between autobiography and biography? In this survey of classic and experimental autobiographical texts, as well as of major developments in autobiographical theory, we will consider broad questions of identity, time and memory, and narrative through close attention to specific works' subjects, structures and histories. Authors may include Augustine, Thomas De Quincey, Harriet Jacobs, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Malcolm X, Maxine Hong Kingston and Art Spiegelman, among others. Students will write two essays and several reading response papers and will lead one class discussion. This counts toward the approaches to literary study or the post-1900 requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.
In the planetary analogy through which pop psychologists have articulated gender difference, men are from Mars and women from Venus. Presumably, this suggests an irreducible difference that always separates males and females. Critical gender, feminist and queer theorizations have, however, enabled us to look beyond such simplistic binaries. How can fiction reenvision categories of sexual difference? What newer figurations of gender, sexuality and the seeming immutability of such signifiers do writers play with and complicate? In this course, we will examine some of these gendered imaginings and pay particular attention to the fluidity of gender boundaries, in-betweenness, third space and exclusion by exploring global fiction. In so doing, we will look beyond the heterosexual and heteronormative to identify multiple axes of desire, identity and identification. This counts toward the post-1900 or approaches to literary study requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered every two years.
What makes and defines a city? Is there an essence that unites Tulsa and Tokyo or Rio de Janeiro and Riga? What happens if we shift our gaze, instead, to comparing New York, Delhi and Shanghai? Some of the characteristics that make these three cities similar include their cosmopolitanism, their renown as economic and political hubs, and their location as sites of cultural activity. In contrast with Tulsa and Riga, then, these cities become global cities. Since the 1990s, globalization theorists have increasingly focused on the city as the site of contestation between the local and the global. In this course, we will read cultural and literary texts that challenge and complicate how we read cities: between exemplifying the nation in a microcosm and embodying globality. Some of the writers we read in this course may include Teju Cole, Orhan Pamuk, Monica Ali, China Miéville, and Jeet Thayil. Students should contact the instructor to find out what specific texts will be adopted. This counts toward the post-1900 and approaches to literary study requirements for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291.
This course is a reading of African fiction since the middle of the 20th century, focusing on the way Africa's cultural traditions, historical problems and political objectives have revised and resisted Western narrative forms. What narrative forms develop as a result of the machinations of power in modern Africa? How, for example, does the need to present historical information and political argument to the broadest possible local audience favor realism and popular styles? How has the globalization of the African novel complicated questions of genre, style, and even the very category of African fiction? Some of the topics that the course will touch upon may include the impact of modernization on traditional life, the transmission of oral culture into literary form, the impact of external patronage on local literary cultures, the influence of writers educated abroad on literature at home, the result of the African effort to "decolonize" literary forms of expression, and the transnational turn in African fiction, and newer movements in African literature including Afro-Futurism. The thematic focus of the course may vary from year to year; students should contact the instructor to find out what specific focus and texts that will be adopted. In addition to plays, short stories, and novels, we will read selections from critical and nonfiction works. This counts toward the post-1900 requirement. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing; or ENGL 210-291; or permission of instructor.
Contemporary literary fiction from Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean is often referred to as postcolonial. This course proposes another category: the Global South. One immediate consequence of such categorization is that these literatures might be framed not only in relation to Western Europe but in dialogue with each other. Looking at the Global South novel as a genre enables us to move outside the boundaries of national literatures and regional specificity while seeing their interconnectedness. In this course, we will read texts that travel and draw different geographies and histories into relation with each other. At the same time, we will begin defining the parameters of the Global South novel and its difference from postcolonial and world literature. In addition to a range of critical and theoretical texts, we may read the following novels: Laila Lalami's “The Moor's Account,” Sunjeev Sahota's “The Year of the Runaways,” Achmat Dangor's “Bitter Fruit,” and Kerry Young's “Pao,” among others. This counts toward the post-1900 or the approaches to literary study requirements for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.
The course offers an exploration of literary texts from writers based in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh and/or the South Asian diaspora. It examines how South Asia as a category is imagined and evoked, as well as how the literary classification changes the way we approach and read the text. To what extent is a reading of a text bound with the national literary canon? In what ways are literary texts informed by the social, historical and political conditions while also participating in the transformation of the public sphere? What are the ways in which South Asian writers articulate a specifically postcolonial imaginary within a global discourse? What, indeed, counts as a South Asian text? In addition to poems, plays, short stories, and novels, we will read critical and nonfiction works. Topics to be examined in the course may include borders and locations, traumas and triumphs of decolonization, formation of the national canon and articulation of identity within and outside the nation. The thematic focus of the course may vary from year to year students should contact the instructor to ascertain the specific focus and texts that will be adopted. This counts toward the post-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.
This seminar will require students to undertake a research paper of their own design, within the context of a course that ranges across genres, literary periods and national borders. Students will study literary works within a variety of critical, historical, cultural and theoretical contexts. All sections of the course will seek to extend the range of interpretive strategies students can use to undertake a major literary research project. Each student will complete a research paper of 15 to 17 pages. Senior English majors pursuing an emphasis in literature are required to take instead ENGL 405. Students pursuing honors will take ENGL 497 rather than ENGL 410. Prerequisite: senior standing and English major or permission of instructor. Offered every year.
Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS will earn the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one-to two page proposal for the IS that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a thirty-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members will follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.