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Interview with Prof.

Shormishtha Panja on “How to
Study English Literature”
About Prof. Shormishtha Panja
Shormishtha Panja is Professor of English, University of
Delhi and Joint Director, Institute of Lifelong Learning,
University of Delhi. She received her PhD from Brown
University, where she was awarded the Jean Starr
Untermeyer Fellowship, and has taught at Stanford
University. At Stanford, she was one of the first Indian
nationals to be hired by the English Department. She has
published widely in national and international journals and
collections such as English Literary Renaissance and
Shakespeare International Yearbook in the areas of her
specialization: Renaissance studies, Shakespeare in India,
gender studies and visual culture. Her books include (co-edited) Shakespeare and Class
(Pearson, 2014), (edited) Shakespeare and the Art of Lying (Orient BlackSwan, 2013), (coedited) Word, Image, Text: Studies in Literary and Visual Culture (Orient BlackSwan,
2009) and (co-edited) Signifying the Self: Women and Literature (Macmillan, 2004, rpt.
2007). She has been invited to lecture at universities in Australia, Canada, the UK and the
USA. She has been awarded a Fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library, USA. At
Delhi University, she has served as Head, Dept. of English, and Dean, Faculty of Arts, and
has served as Chairperson, UUCC, Arts Faculty (Redressal of Sexual Harassment). She has
coordinated the project of producing English Literature e-lessons and video lectures at
the Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi. She is the founder member of
PEHEL: Delhi University Women’s Support Group and has been the President of the
Shakespeare Society of India from 2008 to 2014. She is the author of a blog, Delhi
Musings, on CNN IBN.

The Interview
In this interview Prof. Panja talks with Tarun Tapas Mukherjee, the editor of the magazine.

TTM: Greeting from the Golden Line! Thank you so much for managing time for the
magazine out of your very busy academic life. I think both the students and teachers will
be enriched by your opinions, advice, suggestions and guidelines.
Prof. Panja: Thank you for inviting me.

TTM: How do you consider inclusion of various writings of Indian authors in English in the syllabi of English literature? What impact may it have for the subject in future? Prof. and an inspiration for both teachers and students worldwide. Panja: I think it is a significant and healthy change. Prof. At Brown. well-versed in theory and not too interested in canonical literature. writing and presenting paper after paper (rather than listening to professors) and trying to find entirely original things to say even about Shakespeare’s plays. gratefully and silently drinking in information! The students today are much more competitive. Prof. Do you now see significant change in the academic atmosphere and intellectual climate in India. They were a revelation. my years at Brown honed my critical skills. with very little interaction with the teachers. TTM: Your have vast experience as a teacher both in India and abroad. The academic conditions of my student days was mostly listening to lectures in class. I was an avid reader all through childhood and initially wanted to be a fiction writer. and alas also curbed my creative writing! TTM: Who were your inspiration as teachers? We are interested to know the academic condition of your times as student. Why and how were you attracted to studying English as a subject? Prof. Barbara Lewalski were enlightening for their rigour and depth of scholarship. It was great professional training. and. The students in Delhi are very different from the way we were in Calcutta in our student days. They prefer a cultural studies or post-colonial approach and study Indian literature rather than British or American literature. January. long. I do think it important for them to study canonical texts as well. Robert Scholes’ graduate seminars and those of Prof. except for tutorials. I don’t know that I deserve such lavish praise. Students in India can relate to these texts in a way that they cannot relate to Chaucer or Wordsworth. Panja: Thank you for the kind words. even in the English Dept. However. particularly in teaching and studying English literature? Prof. Please tell us something about how you became interested in the subject. 2015 TTM: You are an exemplary academician. they will have to teach these once they enter the teaching profession. very pleasant hours in the National Library doing research. My years at Presidency College introduced me to the fine art of literary criticism. at Brown. . Vol. 1. Arun Kumar Das Gupta’s lectures on Shakespeare and Keats in Presidency College. I never felt that he was talking down to us undergraduates or diminishing the complexity of the text in any way.1 No. Panja: Vast differences. After all. teacher.3 The Golden Line. Prof. Sukanta Chaudhuri too was an inspiring teacher. Panja: I can never forget Prof.

the classroom teaching suffers as a result of the emphasis put on research. in few institutions. At times I feel that there is a lack of professionalism in Indian . The library staff is enormously helpful. But still. However. Shormishtha Panja on “How to Study English Literature” TTM: Now. The use of a reliable. I can talk about the USA because I have been both student and teacher there. Acting out scenes in class is a good idea. particularly Renaissance English drama in their syllabus in India. we would like to learn from how students of undergraduate and postgraduate levels should approach drama. You name the book. to observe the human heart. the publish or perish syndrome is worrying. Panja: Certainly. Panja: I think including new media in whatever form is an integral part of teaching drama. Performance Studies is taught. TTM: The plays were written with the purpose of popular performance and not for the purpose of literature being read. has brilliant teachers but not too many of them are publishing quality material on a regular basis. on the other hand. The emphasis is on original thinking and writing clearly and persuasively for the purpose of publication. Panja: I don’t think there are any skills specific to any particular genre. TTM: What are the skills that are expected to be learnt by students while reading drama? And how can they master those? Prof. this should go hand in hand with looking at plays on stage or filmed versions of the same. authorized edition—eg.4 Interview with Prof. Panja: There are enormous differences in climate and infrastructure. There is an abundance of riches available to students and teachers alike in terms of resources. the Arden for Shakespeare—is indispensible. at times. Take your students to see a play and write about their experience. to be eloquent. TTM: How should teachers prepare themselves for teaching drama in effective way? Do you think there needs to be a course on teaching drama for teachers? Prof. don’t you think we need to incorporate the principles of Performance Studies in teaching drama in a class of literature? Prof. The performance aspect of drama must not be ignored. The professors impart professional training in every sense of the term. and. the journal. Do you find any difference in intellectual climate and infrastructure between India and foreign countries? Prof. Of course. Prof. And there is a great deal of research currently carried out in performance studies. India. Panja: I have always favoured close readings and looking at the annotations. Of course. Literature teaches us to read closely. TTM: You have taught in various institutions abroad. and they will get it for you.

TTM: On behalf of our students. we hope to travel the length and breadth of India. we make it a point to give young academics a chance to share their work. . Vol. teachers and college.5 The Golden Line. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Panja: I completed my second term as President in April 2014. The Society cannot apply for UGC grants and so we collaborate with a college or university each time we have a conference. 2015 academia. be creative. suggestions and advice Prof. Anyone can become a member of the Shakespeare Society and in fact we have as members a number of young teachers from small colleges in West Bengal. That’s an evil word! I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences. We have the best minds but not the best conditions for these minds to develop. In our conferences. Don’t let your own opinion be cowed down. In this way. write. TTM: What is your message and advice to the students of our college? Prof. 1. to mention a few locations. Panja: I’m not very good at imparting advice. thank you so much for sharing your invaluable time. experience. Panja: Enjoy these very precious years of your life! Read. TTM: You had been the President of the Shakespeare Society in India for a long time.1 No. either national or international. You must have noted how association with the Society at individual and social levels enrich the learning experience. January. knowledge. But how can institutions located in remote rural corners of the country establish a fruitful collaboration with Shakespeare Society? Is there any plan to expand its area of operation by setting up units at district or university level? Prof. Haryana and Rajasthan.