MA FINAL ENGLISH
Professor Raj Kumar
21 April 2014
Women’s Language: A history of Indian-English Women Writers.
“Women have burnt like beacons in all the works of all the poets from the beginning of time. Indeed if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man, some would say greater. But this is woman in fiction. In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten and flung about the room. A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words and profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read; scarcely spell; and was the property of her husband.”
- Virginia Woolf
In ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Viriginia Woolf attempted to write about the history of women’s writing by including real women writers like Jane Austen, George Eliot as well as those who could have existed if they were given the space like Shakespeare’e sister. The epigraph above holds true for Indian-English women writers as well until very recently. The male dominated literary tradition, in India, until the 1970s did not acknowledge the works of women writers and yet Woman has always found representation in works of art. There is a proliferation of the image of the ideal woman throughout mythology which is written by men. These representations are acts of imagination on the part of men; they are the objects of sexual desire through the various roles enforced upon them of mother, daughter, wife, sister(inscribing their lives in relation to those of men) and these characters become unidimensional portrayals which silence the subjectivity of the woman and inscribe them in a hegemonic system of institutionalised exploitation. The most prominent example that we can see is in the work Samskara of U.R.Ananthamurthy. His portrayal of Chandri, Belli or Padmavati as silently accepting of men’s sexual advances without protest underlines the systematic erasure of a woman’s subjectivity; there is no space for the articulation of either her protest or her consent. Her being a woman, the existence of her body is consent enough, his writing expounds. It is this lacuna in the language whether English, Tamil or any other that Cixious and Irigaray says is symptomatic of the fact that the “masculine, rational” language can not be the vehicle of expression for women. A new language needs to be created to portray this new,...