Due to its large scope and a plethora of career options, English has become one of the most sought after courses in institutes such as Delhi University, Jawarharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia.
Teaching, journalism, writing, editing and civil services are just some options. Each of these three universities has a unique approach to teaching these subjects. So it is important for a student to understand the differences and choose a university that is most appropriate to his/her preference and goals.
But doing this is not very easy. The lofty credentials of these universities often confuse students in terms of taking the right decision. Thereby, in order to simplify the decision-making process, we find out what each university has to offer.
Getting your basics right
Revised twice over the last ten years, Delhi University’s (DU) current syllabus of MA English covers the English literary tradition that extends from Chaucer to modern times. It also incorporates several new areas such as Indian literature in English and in English translation, continental literary theory, significant imaginative writing from outside England, gender studies and the relationship between literature and the visual arts.
“The MA English syllabus comprises 16 courses taught over four semesters and in two years. Out of these, students need to study 14 within the English department and choose two from among several courses offered by other humanities or social sciences departments of the university,” explains Sumanyu Satpathy, head of English department, DU.
Explaining why the DU programme is better than that of other universities, Gayathri Nayar, a student, says, “The literature quotient of this course offered by DU is more exhaustive when compared to JNU.”
The course content of JNU is a little restrictive as it focuses mainly on post-colonial studies. “Here in DU, we go through different periods of literary history in every paper. The curriculum is exam-based and focuses more on theory. You have to get your basics right first and then proceed further in this field. The only research-based element is the term paper under the internal assessment group where each student is a part of a group (of approximately 20 students) that has a designated faculty. The topic for term paper is decided after consultation with the teacher,” Satpathy adds.
Make your own Degree
While in DU the papers/courses that comprise the MA programme are pre-determined, Jawarharlal Nehru University (JNU) offers a more flexible programme.
Dr Bhaduri, professor at the Centre for English Studies (CES), JNU, says, “Rather than making students read what is prescribed to them, we let the students choose the contents of their curriculum.”
The programme thus becomes more research-oriented and prepares the student for higher studies. “The basis on which our course differs from what’s offered in DU or JMI is that we don’t have a fixed list of courses, or fixed content for the courses. It varies from one batch to the other. Two students can get an MA degree from our centre by doing an altogether different set of courses,” says Dr Bhaduri.
CES at JNU was adjudged as one of the top 100 English departments in the world by the QS World University Rankings 2013. DU’s English department was also among the top 100.
Balancing the old and the new
JMI attracts a lot of students from different backgrounds, thanks to the balance between canonical literature and contemporary literature that is maintained here.
Saumaya Kulshreshtha, final year student, MA English, JMI, says, “Since I am from a non English background, I found JMI very conducive to my needs. We get to understand criticism first and theory later, which is a very progressive way of teaching.”
A sociological perspective
On a parallel vein, the opinion about the MA sociology course offered by DU, JNU and JMI is also divided. While the master’s degree programme in sociology offered by JNU is oriented towards the study of social systems, sociological theories, research methodology and other areas, “DU focuses more on anthropological orientation,” according to Satish Deshpande, head, sociology department, DU. As far as JMI is concerned, the curriculum for MA sociology is currently being revised.
What are they teaching?
English poetry from Chaucer to Milton
Eighteenth century English literature
Literary criticism 1
Optional paper (one of the following): Seventeenth and eighteenth century drama, European comedy
Language and linguistics
Optional paper (one of the following): Literature and gender, new literatures in English, romantic poetry
Nineteenth century novel
Twentieth century poetry and drama
Indian literature 1
Optional paper (one of the following): American literature, literature and the visual arts in Europe
Twentieth century novel
Literary criticism 2
Optional paper (one Of the following): Ancient Greek and Latin literature, Indian literature 2, the novel in India
Jawarharlal Nehru University
Semester 2 and 4
Indian writings in English
English in India
English prose: Short story semiotics and philosophies of structures - 1
Film and literature
Life literature and thought – nineteenth century
Colonial discourse and postcolonial studies – 1
Indian writings in English or translations
*Students have to opt for four courses and not more than five
Jamia Millia Islamia
Poetry 1 (William Shakespeare, John Donne, Thomas Gray, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge among others)
Drama 1 (Thomas Heywood, Beaumont and Fletcher, John Dryden etc)
Introduction to linguistics
Fiction 1 (Henry Fielding, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy)
Literary criticism (Aristotle, Philip Sidney, John Dryden, ST Coleridge, PB Shelley, William Hazlitt, Mathew Arnold, TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf)
Postcolonial literatures in English (Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Frantz Fanon, Salman Rushdie)
Poetry 2: From the Victorian age to contemporary times
Drama 2: Nineteenth and twentieth century
Fiction II: The modern novel literary theory (Marxism, feminism, post-modernism, post-structuralism, diaspora studies)