Love at Kolkata’s Presidency University,scepticism elsewhere

The 50-mark course will be introduced to first-year undergraduate students in January.

Written by Arshad Ali | Kolkata | Published:September 19, 2013 3:38 am

Love,an optional subject Presidency University is working on,is keeping teachers and students there enthusiastic but sociology teachers elsewhere are doubtful it will include anything that isn’t being taught already.

The 50-mark course will be introduced to first-year undergraduate students in January as part of their general education programme and interdisciplinary studies. The finer details are yet to be worked out.

“It will deal with the expression of love across cultural and social backgrounds,the relation of love with caste and culture,” says Souvik Mondal,Presidency’s sociology head. “Students will find a lot of things from romance to metaphysical poetry and their social contexts. The intention is to emphasise love and undergraduate students will find it interesting because that is the time when they probably encounter love the most.”

The course will also deal with sexuality and sexual violence. “It will deal with love not necessarily between a boy and a girl. Historically and culturally there have been same-sex relationships. Basically,it will deal with love of all kinds but treated in a very academic fashion,” he says.

Moitreyi Sanyal,who heads sociology at St Xavier’s College,says a course pioneered by her college already deals with intimate,same-sex and opposite-sex relationships,while Ruby Das Sain,who heads the department at Jadavpur University,feels the “love” course she has been hearing about is a bogus concept.

“Our course deals with the intricacies of relationships,within and outside marriage,” says Sanyal of Xavier’s. “It explores not only a girl-boy relation but boy-boy and girl-girl relations too. It is an extremely popular course,intended to make students think and rethink about relationships.”

“Yes,I have heard about it [the “love” course and think that the concept is bogus and will fall flat on its face,” says JU’s Sain. “There is no value addition in introducing such a course because it is already taught to any sociology student at the preliminary stage and I strongly criticise this move”.

Having been to Oxford,Sweden and Canada as guest faculty,she says nowhere in the world has she come across such a course. “The people who have formulated it live in a world of fantasy and my appeal to them is to concentrate on relevant things in life,” she says.

“Sociology deals with several social aspects and this course is only part of it. We wanted to give it a nicer name,” concedes Malabika Sarkar,Presidency’s vice chancellor. “It is better than calling the course ‘the structural and theoretical behaviour of human relationships’,which it technically is.”

She adds the course will be very academic and will lead to social awareness. Those who opt for it thinking that it will be all romance will be asking for a surprise,she cautions. “Which is why students would have the option to try it out for the first two weeks and then decide if they want to continue,” she says.

“I think it will be very entertaining and dramatic. We are very hopeful,” says Manas Bhowmik,who has opted for the course.

Presidency plans to rope in guest instructors.

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