NYUAD Assistant Professor of Literature Sheetal Majithia catches herself using the words "interdisciplinary" and "co-curricular" more than once as we sit down to talk about her work. "I don't mean to sound all the same!" she jokes. But what quickly becomes apparent is that these are much more than higher education buzzwords for Majithia; they are concepts that drive her each day inside the classroom when engaged in research, and as a leading voice of Electra Street, NYUAD's arts and humanities journal.
In Global Traffic: Fiction and Film in Place and Space, Majithia takes on a greater volume of contemporary work and how migration is in play in such pieces. "Since the processes of migration are at work in a more accelerated fashion today, we're asking the question if new forms are required to express this phenomenon," she explained. Indeed, Global Traffic looks at different novels, but also more cutting-edge mediums like graphic novels and experimental films, and how science fiction relates to narrative fiction.
Coming to Abu Dhabi has also brought Majithia in closer proximity to India, a place she has researched extensively, having earned her PhD from Cornell University in comparative literature with concentrations including South Asian studies and her BA in both English and the Middle East and Asian Language and Civilizations from Columbia University. She is currently at work on a manuscript entitled "Modernity and Melodrama," which looks at the mode of melodrama as an expression of modernity in transcolonial spaces such as India and its diaspora. Majithia's interest in understanding modernity as a comparative and global phenomenon has also resulted in the creation of a lecture series that is in the works.
Much more than a standard literary journal, Electra Street has also solicited work from outside the NYUAD community and is expanding as a medium for artists as well as a place for students to interact with the city through art exhibits and other arts events.
Research is something Majithia is passionate about, not just for herself but for her students as well. "NYUAD students are able to engage in research with tremendous resources to travel and interact with other cultures and other fields." In developing her own curriculum, Majithia structured her courses in order to encourage her students take advantage of such opportunities. "We were able to come up with a set of core classes in the humanities and sciences that are truly global and that draw on cultural traditions from all over. There is tremendous potential in all these students with different types of thinking across so many disciplines."
Nurturing her students' rich and varied intellectual journeys is something that Majithia will continue to do. "I am looking forward to having more dialogues with faculties across fields, making those bridges that help our students."
As executive editor of Electra Street, Majithia is one of the principal forces behind its unique vision. "[Electra Street] provides a map of the journeys taken within NYUAD and Abu Dhabi as a whole. It serves as a forum for the intellectual experiences in courses here, as well as writings and work beyond the University." Much more than a standard literary journal, Electra Street has also solicited work from outside the NYUAD community and is expanding as a medium for artists as well as a place for students to interact with the city through art exhibits and other arts events.
"It also provides a unique opportunity for students to work with faculty on editing original pieces submitted by some of the most important thinkers of our day, like a recent manuscript by Elias Khoury," she said. Majithia is committed to the journal remaining unbound to one type of media or any other constraints, including geography, and hopes that Electra Street will eventually develop into a forum to showcase work originating from NYU sites across the globe.
Working with literature from around the world is what Majithia does every day inside her classroom as well. She currently teaches two classes: Journeys and Global Traffic: Fiction and Film in Place and Space, both of which are devoted to exploring migration and the relationships between people that are produced as a result of that movement. The former takes a trans-historical perspective, exploring literature ranging from the Oedipus Trilogy to more contemporary texts. However, Majithia also wants the class to explore how texts across history and geography have spoken to each other, delving not only into "narratives of people encountering other people, but also of authors encountering authors that preceded them."