|Pages xix + 326|
The politics of gender which determines everything, including language and literature and the recent trends in feminist criticism has moved towards gender studies. Elizabeth Abel argues, “Sexuality and textuality both depend on difference” and realizing the fact that the entire consequence of female oppression is caused by female “difference” these critics have decided to move beyond “difference” itself. So now the politics of gender identity has come into the scenario, replacing the entirely female perspective and it serves as an umbrella term providing coverage to other areas too. Now male critics who desire to pursue feminist criticism and even the “Queer Study” group comes under this broader concept.
Julia Kristeva has provided an adequate analysis of how feminism has progressed through stages to finally reach the fluidity of gender identity. She states that feminism began with liberalism when women demanded equality; then came the radical feminists who rejected patriarchy and called for separatist matriarchy and finally they rejected both concepts and was asking for “gender identity”. Thus, feminism starting in true sense with Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, proceeded through varied phases to reach the phase of Judith Butler (Gender Trouble, 1990).
The Present book desires to address the politics of gender identity from the authentically Indian perspective, and that too in the arena of English theatre. Indian drama and theatre has always exhibited a close symbiotic relation between genre and gender though literary feminism was quite late in evolving. The reason obviously was that theatre was a more public arena and hence a restricted medium for the females. The males of course, took up the cudgel on behalf of the females, and we have early playwrights like Krishna Mohan Banerji (The Persecuted), Michael Madhusudhan Dutt (Ratnavali, Sermistha, Is This Called Civilization?) who presented women as iconic images of perfection and subjugation. They were followed by Tagore and Sri Aurobindo who in the truest sense propagated the cause of women. Bharati Sarabhai and Swarnakumari Devi were the earliest of female dramatists though their voices remained muffled.
But female centred issues began to occupy the stage with the development of the IPTA (Indian Peoples Theatre Movement) which became operative since 1943 and it preceded an era of theatre festivals and workshops committed to the cause of women. Few examples are Yavintika, a women’s theatre festival organized by a Hyderabad based group, “Voicing Silence”, Gendered Theatre by M.S. Research Foundation, Akka, the National Women’s theatre festival held in Mysore and so on. All this interest focussed upon the feminist cause resulted in a plethora of plays being written with women at the centre. Vijay Tendulkar and Mahesh Dattani are two great names in this perspective. They wrote and are still writing plays which expose the hypocrisy and mistreatment meted out to the female population through generations.
Female directors, once a rarity, now occupied the forefront and names like Ipsita Chandra, Chama Ahuja, Usha Ganguli, Sheila Bhatia, B. Jayashree, Arundhuti Raje, Nadira Babbar, Anuradha Kapur, Amal Allana became household names. They were supplied with regular plays by another female brigade comprising of names like Polie Sengupta, Dina Mehta, tripurari Sharma, Uma Parameswaran, Manjula Padmanabhan, Zahida Zaidi etc. Thus Indian Theatre and Literary Feminism both became the demand of the hour and it all propagated the “politics of gender identity”.
The essays in this book address these multiple aspects of gender identity and feminism and open up doors for varied speculations. The dramatists considered are from Kalidasa to Dattani and provide as broad a spectrum as possible.
True to the process, the pattern of evolution from ancient times to the post-modern period is studied in depth and it proves Indian English thetre to be a powerful aspect of literary feminism. The politics of gender and identity is the mantra of modern India and its authenticity is the gospel of this book.
It is our firm and ardent belief that the readers of this book will enjoy and benefit from these essays, and the book itself will prove to be a substantial contribution to the study of politics of gender, identity and authenticity of feminism and Indian theatre in English.
Pages xxiv + 390
WORLD ENGLISH LITERATURE: BRIDGING ONENESS
(2013) ISBN 978-81-7273-705-4
Literature, as Jean-Paul Sartre writes in his famous essay “What is Literature?” (1949), is a phenomenon that is extremely difficult to define, and he cautions the critics neither to read quickly nor pass judgements on any publication before they have first had understood the concept of ‘literature’. In simple terms, however, the English word ‘literature’, derived from the Latin ‘litterae’ denoting ‘letter’, can be understood to indicate ‘the art of written work’, and is often not confined to published sources. The four major classifications of literature are poetry, prose, fiction, and non-fiction.
This critical anthology has been titled World English Literature: Bridging Oneness. The scopes of the entire title are numerous, and hence deserve a very brief clarification. The conglomeration of three words ‘World’, ‘English’, and ‘Literature’ may result in a term that is quite complex for suitable elucidation. After the Western imperialistic ventures against the African, Asian, and South American countries especially between the 16th and 19th centuries A.D., the connotations of the apparently-simple word ‘world’ have increased multifariously. Following the 1952 classifications by Alfred Sauvy, numerous nations are presently being confronted with four ‘world’ divisions: the ‘first world’ – a term of privilege indicating the capitalistic European and North American nations; the ‘second world’, indicating the communist and socialist including Russia and some nations of South America; the ‘third world’ usually used derisively to indicate the economically-underprivileged and apparently-unaligned Asian and African nations almost all of which are former colonies of European powers; and, the ‘fourth world’, which, according to George Manuel, should be effectively used to denote comparatively unexplored nations of indigenous people. Therefore, the signifier ‘World English’, even in the second half of the 20th century, might have produced multiple signified – ‘collections of English publications from the first world’, ‘leftist English writings by authors of the so-called second world’, ‘postcolonial writings by litterateurs of the third world’, or ‘the foruth-world writings’. The subtitle ‘Bridging Oneness’ may come as a relief for the perplexed readers and critics: it suggests that the principal aim of the present anthology is to attempt the establishment of a literary union between the writings from these different ‘worlds’.
With the rapid proliferation in the socio-cultural and economic powers of principally Asian nations – especially those of China and India – in the last two decades of the 20th and first decade of 21st centuries A.D., implication of the term ‘world’ has undergone a change once again. Presently, there is no longer any perceptible polarisation. Not only have the former colonising nations like England, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Spain, have become economically weaker, their military strength, and hence the strength to alter histories of nations, have dwindled to a considerable level. The communist nations have ceased to be a major alternative bloc. Countries with indigenous people – especially Australia and Peru – have been steadily advancing efficient litterateurs, some of whom have received several international awards. The People’s Liberation Army of China is now the world’s largest military force, while the Indian Army is presently the world’s largest standing volunteer army. The demarcations between the first, second, third, and fourth worlds have been demolished. So have been the segregations in their respective literatures, and hence the necessity of ‘bridging’ respective literatures from these countries.
In the 21st century, the deciders of world fate even in early 20th century, especially England and France, have identifiably lost their power to influence global culture. On the other hand, numerous Third World inhabitants – especially Indians – have successfully permeated the Western segregatory socio-cultural curtains, compelling the English Office for National Statistics to predict in October 2005 that by A.D. 2031, England is scheduled to become a cultural colony of India. Interestingly, and paradoxically, in such changed circumstances, the term ‘world’ has re-begun to indicate the multicultural union of nations all throughout the globe, and ‘World English Literature’ now indicates those publications and literary works that are popular in both the West and the East – the Euro-American and the Afro-Asian nations. ‘English’, in the middle of the title, may simply be interpreted as a medium to ensure that the published literary works reached as many readers as possible.
It may also be asked here that why English is still relevant as a literary language, and why this critical anthology should deal with ‘world literature’ written only in ‘English’. The language of mainly the inhabitants of imperialist Britain, English became the most popular language of the world – though not with the largest number of speakers – by 1922 when the British Empire, as Angus Maddison and Niall Ferguson note, was spread approximately over thirty-three and a half million square kilometres – a quarter of earth’s total land area – and dominated around four hundred and fifty eight million people, one-fifth of world’s total population in the decade of the 1920s. Even in the early-21st century, English, in its different forms and intonations, is spoken by approximately two billion people worldwide. In India, from where the present critical anthology is being published, approximately one hundred and thirty million people speak English. There are different official languages of India, but the most infallible medium for communication between people of different states is undeniably English. Throughout the world, English is spoken in one hundred and twenty six countries. As briefly mentioned earlier, English is among the ‘safer’ language options for attracting wide readership, and even in the 21st century, English is one of the more preferred languages for literary exercises.
The English imperial domination of India for over three hundred years had galvanised its populace to learn, speak, and use English abundantly. In the 19th century, especially, the English colonisers had began to train Indians in English so that they could be deputed to draft or complete imperialism-related administrative paper-works, leading to the proliferation of the usage of the diminutive ‘writers’: the English-educated and British-collaborating Indian clerks. However, with such socio-political and intellectual movements like the Bengal Renaissance, the First Indian War of Independence, and armed anti-imperial struggles especially in Bengal, Maharastra, and Punjab, these very English-educated Indians became potential sources of threat to English imperialists. It was also during this period that the transformation of the English language from a colonisers’ tongue to a medium of effective communication across the linguistically-diverse Indian regions began. Nationalists could register their anti-English sentiments in the imperial tongue so that the inhabitants of Kerala or Andhra Pradesh, for example, could effectively understand what an anti-imperial intellectual from Maharastra or Bengal was trying to protest. Numerous regional works, some of them anti-imperialist and most of them critiques of the English rule, came to be translated into English and strengthened the Indians’ opinion against their colonisers. Even efficient and popular literary works from around the world – especially Germany, Russia, and France – were translated, and the Indian commoners could understand the anti-domination sentiments of the 18th-century enlightened Germans, anti-Tsarist Russians, or the indignant third-estate-communities of France. These entire intellectual strengthening of opinion would culminate in the Indian independence of 1947. Even after Independence, Indians, deeply read in famous literary works of different countries of the world in original or translated forms, have continued to contribute quality literature in English, and terms like ‘Indian Writing in English’, ‘Indo-Anglian Literature’ or ‘Indian English Writings’ suggest an alternative form of the usage of the English language where the so-called ‘pure’ or ‘traditional’ English words are replaced by different Indian phrases or terms, especially from Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil. In a fast-changing cultural and intellectual scenario in India, one can only comprehend the importance, relevance, and necessity of studying world literatures in English.
The editors of the present critical anthology have taken an all-inclusive approach – at achieving ‘oneness’ – to ‘world literature in English’ – written in or translated into the former imperial tongue. Their principal insistence is on acquainting teachers, researchers, and post- and undergraduate students with different aspects of literary works written in English in its different ‘regional’ forms as well as in the ‘traditional’, or, if we are allowed to use the term ‘original’ avatar. This anthology contains critical approaches to works by writers from as diversified nations as England (Edward Morgan Forster, David Herbert Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Leopold Hamilton Myers, Graham Greene, and William Golding) – for no critical anthology of English writings would be successfully completed without incorporation of literary works by the inventors and popularisers of the language itself, Ireland (George Bernard Shaw), India (Mulk Raj Anand, Kamala Markandaya, Mohan Rakesh, Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, Jayanti M. Dalal, Anita Desai, Arun Joshi, Chitrita Banerji, Rohinton Mistry, Amitav Ghosh, Sharankumar Limbale, and Kiran Desai), Australia (Jack Davis), Nigeria (Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe and Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka), the United States of America (Arthur Miller, Edward Franklin Albee III, Philip Roth, and Kenneth Elton Kesey), Canada (Margaret Atwood), Kenya (Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o), and South Africa (Nadine Gordimer), among others. As far as the Indian writers included in this anthology are concerned, Banerji, Mistry, Ghosh, and Kiran Desai – presently the permanent residents respectively of the U.S.A., Canada, the U.S.A., and the U.S.A. – can no longer be called ‘Indian writers’ in strictest sense of the term. They have become world-citizens – endeared to the reading public by both their artistic excellence and description of poignant reality. However, all these writers – with the exception of those belonging to the United States of America (itself an English colony until the 1780s) – are symbolically united by their belonging to countries collectively known as the ‘Commonwealth of Nations’. And, in a sense, World Literature in English: Bridging Oneness is a collection of critical approaches to different superior specimens of American and Commonwealth writings.
The term ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ has an imperialistic connotation: it indicates a congregation of England and its former colonies. However, in the postcolonial literary milieu of the 21st century, the phrase itself has become an anti-imperialistic term: it indicates the common strength of the erstwhile colonised-nations which have congregated themselves to posit socio-economic and artistic challenges against their former imperial centre – England – which finds itself surrounded by its rapidly-developing former colonies. The Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four countries, and is a forum for a number of non-governmental organisations, which strengthen the shared culture of the Commonwealth that extends through common sports, literary heritage, and political and legal practices. Due to this, Commonwealth countries are not considered to be ‘foreign’ to one another, and neither are their litterateurs who are bound together by common colonial, social, educational, and cultural experiences. It is therefore possible that several common aspects might be traced in publications, for example, by Forster, Achebe, Markandaya, Atwood, and Thiong’o. Such possibilities of commonality weave together the diverse critical essays included in the present anthology.