Pashmina Murthy teaches African and South Asian literatures, literary theory, and postcolonial urbanism. Her ongoing book project is on space and orientation in the Global South novel. She is also the co-director of the Global South Project at Cornell University. In 2016, she won the junior Trustee Teaching Excellence Award. 

Areas of Expertise

Postcolonial studies, critical theory, transnational studies.


2007 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ of Southern California

2001 — Master of Arts from University of Mumbai, India

1999 — Bachelor of Arts from University of Mumbai, India

Courses Recently Taught

Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.

What is “the literary,” and how can it be studied? How do distinct methods of reading impact the ways a text is understood to produce meaning and knowledge? What are the conditions and limits of such methods? This course investigates encounters between the literary and theory. As we compare how theorists have approached “the literary” across time and place, so too we press up against what constitutes “theory” and according to whom. Is there something literary about theory itself? By surveying major innovations and interventions in literary theory over the past century, we trace the political histories of reading as a practice of imagining the world otherwise, all the while interrogating ideology and injustice, identity and alterity, ethics and aesthetics, representation and relationality. We study the craft of critical inquiry while considering how literary and theoretical texts may resist and recast the very questions we ask. Our aim is dialogic exchange; in other words, beyond applying a given approach to a given text, we seek to surmise how literature and theory challenge and contest each other in practice. We may encounter works of Marxism, structuralism and poststructuralism, post- and anti-colonialism, queer and transfeminisms, critical race theory, abolition, affect theory, psychoanalysis and critical pedagogy alongside an array of literary works. The theoretical focus of this course may vary; for more information, students should contact the instructor. This counts toward the methods requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. \n

Since it was first awarded in 1969, the Booker Prize has been considered one of the most important prizes in literary fiction written in English. Its influence and reach have only increased since 2014, when the award’s initial focus on Commonwealth, Irish and South African writers expanded the field to include all novels written in English. Winning the Booker signals that the novel has literary value and speaks to the concerns of society at a particular moment. The prize’s cachet invariably has a strong positive effect on book sales and thus the writer's ability to continue writing and publishing. But, as with many prizes, the relationship between literary merit and economic success is complicated. This course, then, has two distinct aims: It first uses the Booker Prize to explore the aesthetics of literary fiction in a global literary marketplace. What do the books we read in the course tell us about what kind of writing is deserving of an award? That is, how does the selection of the Booker shortlist offer new insights into genre, the formation of a literary canon and the category of national fiction? Closely connected is the second aim, centering on the politics of the Booker. As we learn the history of the prize — the controversies it has generated, the changes it has made and the critiques leveled against it — we focus our attention on the most recent of these. Using a postcolonial critical approach, we examine the implications of extending eligibility to all literary fiction in English regardless of nationality. Adding to our discussion of national literature and the literary canon, then, what additional insights do we gain on ideology, hegemony and representation? To get a sense of the complexity of these discussions, we each examine a different shortlisted novel of the most recent year and read a novel that has been awarded the International Booker Prize. This counts toward the methods requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Only open to first-year and sophomore students.

What makes and defines a city? Is there an essence that unites Tulsa and Tokyo or Rio de Janeiro and Riga? What happens if we shift our gaze to comparing New York, Delhi and Shanghai? Some of the characteristics that make these three cities similar include their cosmopolitanism, their renown as economic and political hubs, and their location as sites of cultural activity. In contrast with Tulsa and Riga, then, these cities become global cities. Since the 1990s, globalization theorists have increasingly focused on the city as the site of contestation between the local and the global. In this course, we read cultural and literary texts that challenge and complicate how we read cities: between exemplifying the nation in a microcosm and embodying globality. Some of the writers we read may include Teju Cole, Orhan Pamuk, Monica Ali, China Miéville, and Jeet Thayil. Students should contact the instructor to find out what specific texts will be adopted. This counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirements for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.

This course is a reading of African fiction since the middle of the 20th century, focusing on the way Africa's cultural traditions, historical problems and political objectives have revised and resisted Western narrative forms. What narrative forms develop as a result of the machinations of power in modern Africa? How, for example, does the need to present historical information and political argument to the broadest possible local audience favor realism and popular styles? How has the globalization of the African novel complicated questions of genre, style and even the very category of African fiction? Some of the topics touched upon may include the impact of modernization on traditional life, the transmission of oral culture into literary form, the impact of external patronage on local literary cultures, the influence of writers educated abroad on literature at home, the result of the African effort to "decolonize" literary forms of expression, and the transnational turn in African fiction, Afro-Futurism. The thematic focus may vary from year to year; students should contact the instructor to find out what specific focus and texts will be adopted. In addition to plays, short stories and novels, we read selections from critical and nonfiction works. This counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirements for the major and toward the concentration in African diaspora studies. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.

Contemporary literary fiction from Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean is often referred to as postcolonial. This course proposes another category: the Global South. One immediate consequence of such categorization is that these literatures might be framed in relation to not only Western Europe but also one another. Looking at the Global South novel as a genre enables us to move outside the boundaries of national literatures and regional specificity while seeing their interconnectedness. In this course, we read texts that travel and draw different geographies and histories into relation with one another. At the same time, we begin defining the parameters of the Global South novel and its difference from postcolonial and world literature. In addition to a range of critical and theoretical texts, we may read the following novels by Laila Lalami', Sunjeev Sahota, Achmat Dangor and Kerry Young's “Pao,” among others. This counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirements for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.

This seminar requires students to undertake a research paper of their own design, within the context of a course that ranges across genres, literary periods and national borders. Students study literary works within a variety of critical, historical, cultural and theoretical contexts. All sections of the course seek to extend the range of interpretive strategies students can use to undertake a major literary research project. Each student completes a research paper of 15 to 17 pages. Senior English majors pursuing an emphasis in creative writing are required to take ENGL 405 instead. Students pursuing honors will take ENGL 497 instead. Senior standing and English major or permission of instructor.

Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS earns the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one- to two-page proposal that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a 30-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval.

This seminar, required for students in the Honors Program, relates works of criticism and theory to various literary texts, which may include several of those covered on the honors exam. The course seeks to extend the range of interpretive strategies available to students as they begin a major independent project in English literature or creative writing. The course is limited to students with a 3.33 GPA overall, a 3.5 cumulative GPA in English and an application to become an honors candidate in English. Enrollment limited to senior English majors in the Honors Program; exceptions by permission of the instructor. Undertaken in the spring semester; students register with the senior honors form. Permission of instructor and department chair required.