Delhi University English Literature Syllabus Debate

English Literature has been the subject of discussion with regard to syllabus and job opportunities recently. Attempts have been made to add agenda driven authors or stories from other modern Indian languages. They don’t qualify as English Literature. Such content can be included in the syllabus of Comparative Literature Studies in a university but not under the heading English Literature.

It is in this context that an honest debate needs to be raised. So far the literature studies as also many more subjects in humanities and liberal arts branches, have received poor attention from the academicians as well as government.

Students of literature are the most neglected segment in most universities in India, especially colleges outside big cities. English literature, as also other Indian languages literature, is considered a limited employment opportunity discipline. Career counselling or promotion is something unheard of in institutions of higher learning for literature students. The students must fend for themselves.

This view suffers from several flaws.  There are immense opportunities provided professional courses are added to literature studies. In fact, students are lucky to have opted for literature by choice or accident. Proficiency in English is only one qualification in the globalized modern world, but the training in literary criticism helps develop an analytical mind which carries professional value in the market.

The institutions are required to upgrade the infrastructure for studying literature like any other professional course.

Mentors ought not limit the students’ prospects to teaching or creative writing and journalism. With newspapers and magazines shutting shop due to falling readership and social media meeting the requirement, there comes additional squeeze for income generating activity with a PG degree in English literature.

Literature should not be mistaken to be a mere flight of imagination. All literatures in the world are inundated with a powerful romantic theme woven around a single word “love”. In the contemporary scenario, too much knowledge has robbed the word of all its charm, spell, magnetism and market. Even films treat the ugly side of it because that sells. Clearly there is hardly much market for creative writing. It means only one thing- diversification. Students of literature need to move away from creative writing to knowledge writing, which means greater use of the brain than mere imagination.

There are fields so far treaded by a few informed persons. Awareness of these fields is lacking. Students of literature should be familiar with other openings. Value information does not reach them as they are overjoyed with creative ideas. But the power of creativity can be put to highly remunerative use with acquisition of skills demanded by the employers. To begin with, students must own a personal computer and make more use of it for learning and skill acquisition.

Here are just two wonderful areas to excel: one is the computer linguist’s job. Computer and literature must be immediately joined like the priest and his Holy Scripture. NLP or Natural Language Processing (and artificial language writing) holds the promise of unlimited opportunities for a genuine student of Language and literature (with English language proficiency and computer skills any student of any language can enter this gold mine of decent opportunities).

Another field for language proficient persons is legal drafting. The 3,50,00,000 cases pending in our Courts are basically the result of faulty drafting and obfuscation of meaning around simple words like life, liberty, freedom etc. Studying literature equips a learner with a special skill of a unique quality of comprehensiveness, which helps him take a novel view even in critical and complex legal matters as was proved by Portia in The Merchant Of Venice.

In the business world, interpreters are highly paid. They know two or more languages e.g. English-Chinese or English-Russian or English-Japanese etc. Then English to other Indian languages is another highly paying area. Students of literature, with a certificate course in human rights/consumer/environment laws etc. can find ample well paying employment opportunities.

It would help students of language and literature if these topics form a part of their syllabus and practical sessions.

Indian universities need to provide language and literature labs to promote study of the subject.

As we all know, it takes several years for such drastic change of syllabus, students must start right away. After XII no boy or girl remains a student: they all become learners. And learners can’t afford to waste even a moment. Get started.

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