Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Faculty Profile: Anna Guttman

Narratives of Jewishness in Literature from South Asia

Nicole MacArthur
Published October 28, 2009
Professor Anna Guttman
Professor Anna Guttman

Anna Guttman initially started her education as a Biology major; however, she quickly realized she enjoyed her English classes more and has not looked back since. Now an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, her primary area field of study has been postcolonial literature with a focus on South Asia. Her past research has focused on cultural diversity in South Asian literature and her current research involves studying Jewishness within a similar context.

“During my education, I felt that the books I studied tended to point towards an English (meaning England) history and I did not feel that was a history that I identified with,” says Guttman. “I was very interested in exploring the idea of cultural diversity and what it means to be a part of a society and finding an identity. Generally, living in Canada, we compare ourselves to the United States and I found myself wanting to look at these concepts through a more global perspective.” When looking at India, Guttman found that there were many interesting parallels between Canada and India in terms of multiple provinces, the infrastructure of the political system, and the variety of official languages and decided to focus her research on exploring multiculturalism from that perspective.

Currently, Guttman is studying the presence of Jews and Judaism within South Asian literature, a topic which evolved from her past work. “I realized that in a lot of the writing I was looking at during my earlier research there were several Jewish characters which is interesting because Jewish people are a minute part of the ethnicity of India. Consequently, I became curious as to why people are so fascinated with Jewish culture and why writers like Salmon Rushdie and Vikram Seth are so interested in talking about Jews.”

Anna Guttman’s research is highly regarded within scholarly communities. She was recently awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to help fund her current research, which is reflective of the high quality of her work. Her book, The Nation of India in Contemporary Indian Literature (available at the Lakehead University Library), has been described as, “convincing, sometimes surprising and forwardthinking, committed to unraveling the complexities of India as a nation,” (The Year’s Work in English Studies, 2009). In addition, through her teaching, Anna Guttman has been able to add some diversity to the courses available through the English department by developing courses dealing with South Asian literature, African literature, and Globalization.

Clearly, Professor Anna Guttman is a valuable presence within the University community and her past, present, and future research will undoubtedly make her a prominent figure in the fields of post-colonial literature and South Asian literature.

Nicole MacArthur is one of several Lakehead students taking part in SPARK – Lakehead, a student writing program sponsored by The Chronicle-Journal. 

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