Writing across borders: Globalizing the Creative Writing Program

Through March 25, 2018
UChicago Center in Delhi

Mar. 24

Gathering celebrated novelists, poets, translators, editors, teachers, and scholars from India, the US, and the UK, “Writing across Borders” initiates a collaboration between the University of Chicago and Ashoka University to launch a multifaceted discussion of interconnected literary futures in Asia, Europe, North America, and beyond. Students in the Delhi-NCR region, too, benefited from this conversation, through open-session creative writing workshops in poetry, translation, and fiction led by University of Chicago faculty.

Teamwork Arts, the organizer of a range of literary festivals, including the Jaipur Literature Festival, joined Ashoka and UChicago as a partner for this symposium.
The event was born partly in response to the nature of the times in which we live. In today’s literary ecology, it would seem that fewer and fewer people want to read, but more and more of them want to write. This paradox is apparent not only in contemporary Indian society, but in the United Kingdom, the United States, and beyond. As the American composition theorist Andrea Lunsford once observed, “We are moving from the age of consumption to the age of production.”

The writer Amit Chaudhuri has initiated a culture of creative writing pedagogy in India through a series of writing workshops organized by the University of East Anglia, where he teaches for part of the year. These workshops have become highly popular and successful, and the program has been called “the shortest route getting published.” The initiative has opened up new possibilities for literary connections between the UK and India.

Ashoka University, India’s first private non-profit university devoted to the liberal arts and sciences, has brought creative writing to the Indian university. It has initiated an undergraduate Minor in Creative Writing and an interdisciplinary B.A. in English & Creative Writing. A proposal for an M.A. in English and Creative Writing is underway, and other programs for more advanced writers are also being planned.

The University of Chicago has also recently initiated a Creative Writing Program, with an emphasis on innovative literary practice. Given its English department’s established strengths in the study of poetry and narrative, its tradition of excellence in South Asian studies, and its strong presence (through the University of Chicago Delhi Center) in India, it made natural sense for Ashoka and UChicago to partner with each other about literary futures in the subcontinent in general, and about creative writing pedagogy in particular.



DAY ONE – MARCH 24, 2018

10:15 AM – 10:45 AM          
Coffee and Welcome (by Saikat Majumdar and Srikanth Reddy)  

11 AM – Noon
Creative Writing Programs in a Global Context
Participants: John Wilkinson; Amit Chaudhuri; Saikat Majumdar; Aditi Sriram 
Moderator: Srikanth Reddy

12:15 PM – 1:15 PM           
Teaching Literary Translation
Participants: Rosinka Chaudhuri; Rita Kothari; Vivek Shanbhag; Arunava Sinha
Moderator: Jason Grunebaum

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM             

2:45 PM – 3:45 PM             
Globalizing Program and Course Design 
Participants: Akhil Katyal; Janice Pariat; Sumana Roy
Moderator: Devapriya Roy 

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM             
International Publishing
Participants: R. Sivapriya; Arunava Sinha; Poulomi Chatterjee; Himanjali Sankar
Moderator: Rita Kothari

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM             
High Tea


DAY TWO – MARCH 25, 2018

10:00 AM – 10:30 AM              

10:45 AM – Noon         
Literary Fiction in a Transnational Perspective
Participants: Vu Tran; Vivek Shanbhag; Amit Chaudhuri; Anjum Hasan
Moderator: Saikat Majumdar 

12:15 PM –  1:30 PM                      
Panel on Poetry and Poetics 
Participants: Rosinka Chaudhuri; John Wilkinson; Anjum Hasan; Akhil Katyal
Moderator: Srikanth Reddy

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM                 

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM                   
Student Reading

3:45 PM – 5:00 PM 
Reading Publics 
Participants: Jai Arjun Singh; Aditya Mani Jha; Devapriya Roy
Moderator: Rukmini Bhaya Nair                 

3:45 PM – 5:30 PM
Sample Workshops for students from Ashoka University & participating colleges
Fiction: Vu Tran
Poetry: Srikanth Reddy
Translation: Jason Grunebaum

5:30 PM 
Concluding address by Sharupa Dutta & Kritika Gupta, Teamwork Arts 

5:45 PM – 6:30 PM  
High Tea


Key themes
 Creative writing programs and pedagogy
 Creative Writing in the context of the new liberal arts university in India
 The arts and education in India, the UK, and the US
 The future of reading and the state of publishing, and what role universities may play in producing the literature of the future.
 The university and community engagement on local and global levels.


Statements from the organizers

“Within the academy, creative writing has been too narrowly limited and defined by national literatures for many years. So I’m excited by the prospect of bringing three major research universities from around the globe—Ashoka University in India, the University of East Anglia in the UK, and the University of Chicago in the United States—into collaborative conversation about creative writing in an international perspective. India in particular, with its vibrant spectrum of literary traditions across a diverse range of regional languages and histories, offers thrilling possibilities in this respect. My colleagues and I look forward to the collaborations and initiatives that will emerge from this symposium, which we hope will only be the beginning of many more conversations to come.”
– Srikanth Reddy, The University of Chicago

“We are excited to initiate a collaboration with the University of Chicago, distinctive for its excellence in poetics as well as narrative studies, and for being one of the major global venues for South Asian Studies. Chicago’s Creative Writing Program, focusing on experimental aesthetics, and Ashoka, where Creative Writing is a new academic option for students but one growing increasingly popular, promise to make great program partners. Delhi, as the subcontinental hub of publishing, is a unique place to initiate an interface between the academy and a larger public world of letters, and creative writing pedagogy, a relatively new practice in India, appears all set to play a key role in the larger landscape of liberal arts education.”
– Saikat Majumdar, Ashoka University