This century, that of the single global superpower, has seen 9⁄11 and its disastrous fallout, the “war on terror”. This is a century of tragically heightened disparities, of ethnic violence and refugee movements on an unprecedented scale, and of an internet explosion that has removed the necessity for physical spaces in the formation of worldwide economic, political and religious communities. This is the century in which global warming has become real, visible and impossible to ignore, and this is the century of the most keenly experienced pandemic, one with tremendous global ramifications in almost all aspects of life. This is also the century in which neoliberalism and consumerism appear to have trumped all other ideologies. And finally, this is the only century that our students have lived in or experienced. It seems necessary therefore, to first use the most precise denotation of “contemporary” for the purposes of this course rationale: as referring to fiction that belongs in the present, is synchronous with our lives and times, addresses issues that we know to be the issues of the day. Seen in another way, of course, the term “contemporary” as it relates to literature cannot be limited to the 21st century, or to any one period in particular. We will also, therefore, explore other meanings of the word, especially the one proposed by Giorgio Agamben, who writes of contemporariness as an approach or a particular relationship with one’s own time.
Works to be read have been grouped under four headings: 1) The cosmopolitan and the
religious 2) Pushing further against realism 3) Presenting the Indian contemporary 4) New