South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

Carla Petievich

Other facultyPhD, University of British Columbia

Visiting Professor
Carla Petievich



Urdu Literature, Indo-Muslim Cultural History, Pakistani Culture, Female Access to Education in Pakistan


Courses taught:

Cortesans in a Cross-Cultural Perspective


ANS 372 • Love In S Asia: Lit/Film/Socty

31905 • Spring 2011
Meets MW 6:30PM-8:00PM WCH 4.118

This course will look at various manifestations of love, juxtaposing its aesthetics and cultural ideals with an array of social realities.  Our enquiry will involve reading literary works, watching films and listening to song recordings.  We will look at the tensions that exist between what, and how, we are taught to desire—and how we pursue those desires.

Students will be expected to participate actively in class discussion and will each lead at least one class discussion.  There will be one in-class exam, one midterm essay of 5 pages and one final paper 10-12 pages in length.

Evaluation Scheme

  • Class Participation            15%           
  • Midterm Test                        25%            February
  • Midterm Essay            25%            Due March
  • Final Paper                        35%            Due on or before the day of the final exam

Attendance Policy

Each student is allowed 3 excused absences, after which her/his grade will begin to drop.

Three class sessions will last from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. to allow for full film screenings.  Attendance at these screenings is REQUIRED.

Required Reading

  • Dwyer, Rachel,  All You Want is Money, All You Need is Love.  Cassell, 2000.
  • Orsini, Francesca, Love in South Asia: a cultural history.  Cambridge 2006.
  • Ramanujan, A.K., The Interior Landscape.  Oxford India 1994 [1967].
  • Ramanujan, A.K., Speaking of Siva. Penguin 1973.
  • Ruswa, Mirza Hadi, Umrao Jan Ada (The Courtesan of Lucknow), tr. David Matthews.
  • Handouts

Required Films

  • Pyaasa – Guru Dutt
  • Garam Hava – M.S. Sathyu
  • Dilwale Duniya Le Jayenge - Yash Chopra

ANS 372 • Courtesans In Cross-Cul Persp

30996 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM MEZ 1.122
(also listed as WGS 340)

Course Description


In this course we will look at the profiles and practices of courtesans across several cultures and times— Japanese geisha and Korean gisaeng;  singers and poets of China’s and Japan’s “floating worlds,” devadasis from South India, tawa’ifs of northern India, even the legendary cortigiani of Venice.   Readings will be drawn from a variety of texts (autobiography, biography, novel, poetic texts, letters and scholarly essays) and will consider the social role of courtesans as women and as performers, the arts they cultivated and disseminated from generation to generation, and various debates surrounding their social position.  Class discussion will be directed toward how we ought to understand who and what these special women are/were.


Grading Policy


1 oral presentation (10%)

2 short written assignments  (2 x 5%)

5-7 page midterm essay (25%)            due March 11th

Final take-home essay exam (40%)    1st draft due by May 6th;

final draft due May on final exam date

Class participation –includes attendance and preparation (15%) 


Required Reading



Feldman, Martha and Bonnie Gordon, eds.  The Courtesan’s Arts:  Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Oxford 2006).  [selected chapters].


Masuda, Sayo.  Autobiography of a Geisha, trans. G.G. Rowley.  (Columbia 2005



Ramanujan, A.K., V. Narayana Rao and David Shulman.  When God is a Customer:

            Telugu Courtesan Songs by Ksetrayya and Others (California 1994).


Ruswa, Mirza Hadi.  Umrao Jan Ada:  the Courtesan of Lucknow, trans. D.J. Matthews

(Calcutta: Rupa 1996; Lahore: Sang-e Meel 1996). 


Other Required Readings – Course Documents posted on Blackboard


Allen, Matthew, “Rewriting the Script for South Indian Dance,” TDR 41,3 (Autumn 1997): 63-100. 


Bossler, Beverly, “Shifting Identities: Courtesans and Literati in Song China,”  Harvard Journal of Asiatic

                                Studies, 62,1 (june 2002): 5-37. 


Edelson, Loren, “The Female Danjuro: Revisiting the Acting Career of Ichikawa Kumahachi,” Journal of

                                Japanese Studies 34,1 (2008): 69-98.  



McMahon, Keith.  “Fleecing the Male Customer in Shangahi Brothels of the 1890s.”  Late Imperial China

                                vol. 23, No. 2 (December 2002):1-32.  


Miner, Jess. “Courtesan, Concubine, Whore: Appolodorus’ Deliberate Use of Terms for Prostitutes.” 

                                American Journal of Philology 124 (2003) 19-37. 


Oldenburg, Veena Talwar, “Lifestyle as Resistance: the case of  the Courtesans of Lucknow, India” 

                                Feminist Studies, 16,2 (Summer 1990): 259-287.


Soh, Chunghee Sara, “Women’s Sexual Labor and State in Korean History,”  Journal of Women’s History

                                15,4 (winter 2004): 170-77.


Vatsyayana,  Kamasutra Ch. VI (on Courtesans).


Volpp, Sophie.  “The Literary Circulation of Actors in 17th C. China.”  Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 61.

                                no. 3 (aug. 2002): 949-984.


_________.  “Classifying Lust:  the 17th Century Vogue for Male Love,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic

                                Studies, vol. 61, no. 1 (June 2001): 77-117.


Yao, Ping, “The Status of Pleasure: Courtesan and Literati Connections in T’ang China (618-907),” 

                                Journal of Women’s History, 14,2 (summer 2002): 26-53.


Yeh, Catherine Vance, “Reinventing Ritual: Late Qing Handbooks for Proper Customer Behavior in

                Shanghai Courtesan Houses,” Late Imperial China 19.2 (1998) 1-63.



Suggested Reading


Allen, Matthew Harp. “Tales Tunes Tell: Deepening the Dialogue between “Classical” and “Non-

                                Classical” in the Music of India.”  Yearbook for Traditional Music, vol. 30 (1998) :22-52.

Han Bangqing, The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai.  Translated by Eileen Chang, revised and edited by Eva

                                Hung.  New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Mark Metzler, “Woman’s Place in Japan’s Great Depression: Reflections on the Moral Economy of

                                Deflation”,  Journal of Japanese Studies, 30:2, 2004: 325-52.

Benito Ortolani, The Japanese Theatre from Shamanistic Ritual to Contemporary Pluralism, Princeton:

                                Princetion University Press, revised edition, 1990: Chs. 7 and 8 on Kabuki and Bunraku.

                                pp.  162-231.

John R.Wallace, “Reading the Rhetoric of Seduction in Izumi Shikibu nikki,”  Harvard Journal of Asiatic

                                Studies, 58,2 (December 1998):481-512  [especially 481-88].


All other Course Documents with Green flags are optional, but suggested.  All Course Documents flagged RED are required.


Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Studenst with Disabilities, 471-6259.



ANS 372 • Courtesans In Cross-Cul Persp

30528 • Spring 2009
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM GAR 3.116
(also listed as WGS 340)

Please check back for updates.

URD 330 • Aesthetics Of Genre In Urd Lit

32795 • Fall 2007
Meets W 6:00PM-9:00PM WCH 4.118
(also listed as URD 384)

Study of specific subjects related to Urdu culture as reflected in literary productions and other modes of expression.  Specific offerings are listed in the Course Schedule.  Prerequisite: Urdu 312L with a grade of at least C.

ANS 372 • North Indian Lit In Translat-W

27615 • Fall 2003
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM WAG 208

Please check back for updates.

URD 330 • Classical Urdu Poetry

28585 • Fall 2003
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM PAR 103
(also listed as URD 384)

Study of specific subjects related to Urdu culture as reflected in literary productions and other modes of expression.  Specific offerings are listed in the Course Schedule.  Prerequisite: Urdu 312L with a grade of at least C.

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