These ground-breaking collections offer 200 texts from 11 languages, never before available in English or as a collection, along with a new reading of cultural history that draws on contemporary scholarship on women and on India. This extraordinary body of literature and important documentary resource illuminates the lives of Indian women through 2,600 years of change andThese ground-breaking collections offer 200 texts from 11 languages, never before available in English or as a collection, along with a new reading of cultural history that draws on contemporary scholarship on women and on India. This extraordinary body of literature and important documentary resource illuminates the lives of Indian women through 2,600 years of change and extends the historical understanding of literature, feminism, and the making of modern India. The biographical, critical, and bibliographical headnotes in both volumes, supported by an introduction which Anita Desai describes as “intellectually rigorous, challenging, and analytical,” place the writers and their selections within the context of Indian culture and history.Volume I: 600 B.C. to the Early Twentieth Century includes songs by Buddhist nuns, testimonies of medieval rebel poets and court historians, and the voices of more than 60 other writers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the diverse selections are a rare early essay by an untouchable woman; an account by the first feminist historian; and a selection from the first novel written in English by an Indian woman. ...
|Title||:||Women Writing in India, Volume I: 600 BC to the Early 20th Century|
|Number of Pages||:||539 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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Women Writing in India, Volume I: 600 BC to the Early 20th Century Reviews
What we have tried to do, therefore, principally in the section introductions, but also in the biographical headnotes, is to create a context within which women’s writings can be read, not as new monuments to existing institutions or cultures (classics are, by definition, monuments), but as documents that display what is at stake in the embattled practices of self and agency, and in the making of a habitable world, at the margins of patriarchies reconstituted by the emerging bourgeoisies of empire and nation. Our stress is on what forms the grain of these women’s struggles.I've read enough of these anthologies of lit by women to start comfortably running t-tests in my mind in regards to their forms, functions, and my responses to them. With 500 Great Books By Women there was the standard liberal aspiring grab bag: democratic in effort, somewhat varied in result, and little to no "difficult" questions posed to the reader. Daughters of Africa focused not on the "great" but on the greatness that history does its hardest to eclipse, a document that does more through its simple compilation of narrative to refute standardized thought processes than most books of philosophy. When it comes to Women Writing in India, if you ever get your hands on one or both of these volumes, drop everything you're doing and read through the preface and introductions. I know it's super ultra fashionable these days to skip all that, but I promise you, if you avoid the 93 pages out of the 536 of this work that aren't wholly concerned with author bios and writing samples, you may as well have not read any of it at all. This is taking on the white supremacist patriarchy at its finest from the white men to the non-white men to the white women, so if all you're going to do is pull out its teeth, you're better off somewhere else.In the earliest of these books, Literary Women, Ellen Moers admitted to an initial reluctance to separate writers on the basis of gender, but cited three reasons why she began to think otherwise. First, the astonishing results such separation does produce. Second, the realization that “we already practice a segregation of major women writers unknowingly,” and third, a better understanding of women’s history. Implicit in the second reason is the recognition of the covert politics of subsuming women into the category of human, but restricting at the same time their importance within it. But more important, we feel, is the realization that existing critical practices had a hidden political agenda and that a politics could only be challenged and undermined politically, however much the critical decorum might discourage such unseemly behavior. It might have been difficult to construct theoretically tenable reasons for dealing separately with women writers. But the political values of such a move was undeniable.Considering how adamantly some groups insist on submerging their reading of writing of reading in total vacuums, there's an awful lot of complaining when the inevitable alienation sets in and refuses to go away. I've given up on the political infusion process in others for the most part cause either you find it disturbing that such a high percentage of certain demographics in the canon has been raped or murdered or had family members lynched or had nations invalidated, or you don't. Sure, it's painful acknowledging such, but if you'd rather not think writers like Arundhati Roy or Jhumpa Lahiri or Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain simply sprang out of holes in the ground, it's necessary. I won't be including hyperlink lists of works and authors like I have done in reviews of a similar nature because I prefer to focus more on this anthology's lusciously delicious analysis, but my status updates have the full table of contents if you're so inclined. The majority of them are connected to respective GR profiles, but there's so little out there on the interwebs that wasn't the scanned Google Books version of this anthology thrown back at me. It just goes to show that, nearly a quarter of a decade after this epic work was compiled and put forth on the mass market, there's still a lot more to be done.Feminist critics also pointed out that the “ideal reader,” privileged by critical modes that stressed the universal, was white, upper-class, and clearly male and that the reader addressed by the canonical texts bore the same social imprint. In fact, the focus of disciplinary interest had become so restricted that what were regarded as classics could be read, to purloin a phrase from the American critical Nina Baym, as “melodramas of beset manhood.”…the present-day concerns of Western feminists are writ large to encompass the world, and the world collapses into the West. When women’s literary history, for instance, culminates in what Showalter categorizes as the “female phase” turned in on itself, seeking its identity, history becomes a plot that finds its resolution in the current aspirations of Showalter’s form of feminism.Middle-class women, white women, upper-caste Hindu women might find that their claims to “equality” or to the “full authority” of liberal individualism are at the expense of the working classes, the nonwhite races, dalits, or Muslims. For, as we shall see, given the specific practices and discourses through which individualism took historical shape in India, these groups had to be defined as Other in order that the Self might gain identity.A briefer version of that is "check yourself before you wreck yourself", but I can't be the only one to find all this theoretical contextualizing absolutely fascinating. It fatigues like anything else (I'll be saving Volume II for a later time cause jeez I need a break), but this is what the course of millenia has worked on the history of words. Every word of "normal" and "reason" in the halls of literature needs at least two to three hundred to rip it out of its slothful moorings and make it run for its status of classic, but the fact that English isn't rocket science doesn't mean it doesn't deserve the same amount of effort, endurance, and careful exploration. If it turns out that said "normal" and "reason" is in actuality a lot less apolitical than mandated, that's the way it goes.It is crucial, therefore, that we restrain ourselves ( and this is all the more true for readers outside India and especially in the West) from reading these texts simply for confirmation of our present-day experience, or, in the more historically self-conscious version of the same gesture, from reading them as earlier, “less advanced” realizations of contemporary (feminist/liberal/nationalist/Marxist) sensibilities. For to do that is simply to lose out on the rich drama that is staged in these texts, not only in their overt themes, but also in the fine detail of their form.What's the last work you've read that was translated from Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, or Urdu? Now, were any of them by women. Do you know how many female saints I had dancing and composing poetry and rejecting patriarchal bullshit in 12th century India? Lots. Do you know how many Indian women have won the Nobel Prize for Lit? I can't even say the answer to that is a good thing or a bad thing anymore. Mind you, this is my own white-washed perspective. The places where this work and myriad others have come and are coming and will to continue to come from obviously know exactly what they're doing.P.S. 600 BC, though. C'mon, people. It's not like there aren't plenty of Indian women writers to choose from.
It is a tragedy that the writers had to make a case with scholars and academics to research into a subject that has received little to no attention or not take offense when asked "What was the point". Defying the boundaries set by the experts, two women traveled across the country meeting activists, feminists, aging journalists, old bookstore owners, librarians, archivists, women involved in literary circles and just about anyone who could offer them a morsel of information on the ignored half of the literary populace. The writers make a formidable case in the shift of perspectives women exposed in their literature that didn't comply with the literary canon. The shifting narratives of women through the course of time is a reflection of history and as the authors note, they women experienced a dichotomy of living under the strict social construct that was slowly mutating under the colonized rule. Thus the writing saw a drastic shift where the women expressed their position as a colonized person and as a person as well. Susie Tharu insists on recognizing cultural complexity and academic exposure of women who wrote in a culture that actively resisted and/or heavily criticized literature by women. Given the complexity that is Indian diaspora, the authors of this book have been carefully sensitive about the regional culture that is ingrained in the works. There is much historical context that is necessary while delving into writings that are set in same period but in different parts of the country. This is critical in reading works such as these since it opens up conversations leaning heavily on feminism and the role of women in such a society. Though the works of women are accessible, their life story isn't always is. Its noted and repeated in the book several times where information about the women writers come from a completely different source - in the form of lectures, a commentary written by a prominent male writer or in case during Bhakti movement, by the monarchy. Its deeply saddening to be unaware of the circumstances of the writers while admiring the poignancy of their writing. The writers of this book have carefully navigated through the available literature and have made available the works that speaks of the society and the response of a woman in historical context. Its fantastic in its approach as we see many of the early women poets like Akkamahadevi would write about piousness and divinity, and at the same time talk about the male gaze, body acceptance and denouncing what the society at that time deemed women should do. The integrity of the book lies in these poems, writings, where the women writers from the past have made notable observations and have expressed their opinion on various subjects.Indian writing isn't just linguistically complex but comes with heap of cultural issues that have plagued the country for too long. While those women in places of privilege had some degree of independence, the class system played out much harshly to those who weren't considered to be in the upper echelon. These women suffered not just from harsh reality but their spoken and sometimes even written words never got the attention they deserved. Historically many such songs and stories remain and have become a part of folklore but the identities of these writers are forever lost. The editors of the book have made their case for choosing the writers quite clear - the content, the context and to throw light on those who have been ignored for centuries. I will close the review with the below poem by Akkamahadevi - the brilliant medieval Kannada poet, rebel and mystic. I was twelve when we memorized some of her poems in school without understanding the philosophy or her life or the blatant disregard she had for the rigid structure of thought and society. I read a collection of her works recently with a hint of painful nostalgia since my school education failed to impart the nuances of her poetry and the feminist undertones it expressed. The poem Brother, you've come, is directly quoted from book, pg. 79. To give some context, Akkamahadevi rebelled against religious orthodoxy and some legends say she wandered naked, moving from town to town in search of divine lover. Brother, you've comedrawn by the beautyof these billowing breasts,this brimming youth.I'm no woman, brother, no whore.Every time you've looked at me,Who have you taken me for?All men other than ChennamallikarjunaAre faces to be shunned, see, brother.
This book resulted in a multi-fold increase in my reading list :-)It was interesting to know about so many woman writers, most of whom come under the "not-so-well known" category and yet, wrote on diverse topics, and in an interesting manner. I like this idea of attaching a piece or two of the author's work in translation, with each biographical essay. Looking forward to read Volume-2 sometime soon!
only problem with this text, useful as intro, useful as u text, is of its nature: there is no particular unity except they are all written by women, some feminist, some traditional, all get brief bios preceding their work, poetry or prose, fiction or arguments or letters, which tend to blur into one if you read them consecutively... did I want something else? perhaps clearer culture, geographic, language organization, more sense of historical development. my problem, not the text... and usual effect of sections of work quoted: just when it gets interesting we go on to the next piece... so there are authors to read...early work is without much detail, much knowledge of author, of time, of lost works. modern work captures a sense of India just when it came into contact with imperial England, with the changes to cultures, arguments between conservatives and reform-minded, some inspired by new Christianity, some more modern interpretations of Vedas, of traditional Hindu society. reform and nationalism did not necessarily involve women's rights. women did become sometimes important voices, and the subjects to reform include everything: child marriage, widow remarriage, arranged vs love marriages, education of women, freedom of writing, poetic and prose recounts of women's experience...so this is a useful collection, many works, some very good, some less. translation loses some poetry perhaps- but does give an idea of range of women's lives... recovery of women's voices... women's histories...
This book has short stories, poems, speeches, folk songs, passages from novels etc by Indian women from 600 B.C. to 20th century. Imagine reading the poems of Buddhist nuns from 6th century and then reading a chilling account of a Hindi writer who was imprisoned by British government for demanding independence during colonial rule. One writer reimagines the classic story Radha and Krishna and gives it a sexual angle. Another writer worked on household chores from early morning to late night and then, to pursue her love for learning, she practised writing alphabets on the wall. She did this secretly because women were not allowed to read and write. This woman ended up writing many novels. One woman was a prostitute. One woman was the first female graduate from Bombay University. Many women were victims of child marriage and a lot of them became widows at a really young age. There is one thing that connects them all: They were rebels who didn't let society's oppressive customs and culture dictate them. Almost all of them paid a huge price for thinking differently and challenging the status quo. They all loved writing, more than the fear of alienation and humiliation. This book gave me goosebumps. I didn't know the names of 99.9 percent of the writers in this book and that's a shame. The Indian education system doesn't really talk about these writers..as the society is still patriarchal.Hats off to Susie Tharu and K Lalita for bringing these literary pieces together. Some of the writings are so rare, but these women are passionate about telling the stories of these courageous writers. Don't think twice. Just pick up this book because it is a piece of history. And if you can, PLEASE pass on this book to other people. Because it needs to be read. And it can seriously change the lives of young girls and women. And boys and men.