Works of transgender poets find place in MG University BA syllabus

As for the inclusion of courses on transgender lives, Sumesh said MGU is aiming to get down to the micro-level of gender.
'Pennappan' a book by Aadhi
'Pennappan' a book by AadhiPhoto | Express

KOCHI: In line with the changing social equations, the Mahatma Gandhi University (MGU) has decided to include in its Four Year Undergraduate (FYUG) programme courses that deal with gender on the micropolitical level.

As part of the syllabus, in what can be termed a first-of-its-kind move, MGU has included poems by LGBTQA+ writers and novels on transgender lives. The Kerala University too has included one such poem by a transwoman in its FYUG course. Another interesting fact in the new syllabus is the inclusion of literary works of tribal poets.

Sumesh A S, convenor of the MGU Rules and Regulations Panel, told TNIE, “The university has included such topics in its syllabus in the past too. In 2016, when gender identity was a hot topic, we included literature delving into gender identity in our programmes. Over the years, we have included courses that acquainted the students with the various aspects of society.” In the entire syllabus, be it the literature courses or even the science stream, the university has striven to be on par with contemporary happenings, he pointed out.

As for the inclusion of courses on transgender lives, Sumesh said MGU is aiming to get down to the micro-level of gender. “Gender identity was broad-spectrum. It didn’t delve into the micropolitical level wherein came the LGBTQA+,” he pointed out. Citing an example, he said, “The ability enhancement course called New Text New Aesthetics which has been designed for the science stream as part of the FYUG programme has a novel titled Yamdeep by Hindi novelist Neeraja Madhav which tells the story of the life struggles undergone by a transperson. This is a common course similar to the additional language we used to have for the normal UG courses.”

Poems by transgender poets are in the course called ‘Gender Status Studies’ in BA Malayalam (Hons), said Ciby Kurian, MGU UG Board of Studies (Malayalam) chairperson and an associate professor with the Malayalam department of Deva Matha College, Kuravalingad.

“These papers are taught in the fourth year of the course. It should be noted that under the FYUG programme, students have the option of discontinuing after three years of study. Hence, the fourth year of the programme is envisaged for research-oriented students. And it is for them that courses like gender studies, post-human studies and subaltern studies have been included. The poems Pipinchoovadu by transwoman Vijayarajamallika and Pennappan by Aadhi, a non-binary 25-year-old poet, have been included in the gender studies course,” he said. Expressed happiness over his poem being included in the BA Malayalam (Hons) syllabus, Aadhi said, “The poem talks about queer experiences and was written during a time when I was going through some hardships in my life as a non-binary person.”

Aadhi, the queer poet
Aadhi, the queer poetPhoto | Express

New Malayalam terms

Another aspect that makes MGU’s FYUG syllabus stand out is the inclusion of new Malayalam words for many English terms which had hitherto been written as such. According to Ciby, words like ‘akyantha’, ‘sthalikatha’ and ‘vimanushikikaranam’ have been used instead of English terms like narrativity, spatiality and dehumanisation.

“Until now we have been using the English words as such. But a change has been brought now,” he said. However, the usage of new words has kicked up a debate in the Malayalam literary world with many appreciating the effort while some criticising it.

Tribal poets’ works included

Another step taken by MGU is to include poems written by tribal poets like Ashokan Marayoor and Manikandan Attapadi. “These poems had been written in the languages of the tribes to which these poets belong. They have been translated into Malayalam and the students are provided with the Malayalam and original versions of the poems,” Ciby said.

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