Essays and Interviews
Many South Asian women writers engage with the overall quest for survival, which can be affiliated with all the themes expressed in this volume: trauma, diaspora, injustice, resistance, place, space, language, and identity. The texts discussed herein contribute to the ongoing discourse related to such themes in postcolonial studies and transnational literature, and could be used in courses on South Asian literature, women’s writing, postcolonial studies and literature, and world or transnational literature.
7. “Womenspace” : Negotiating Class and Gender in Indian English Novels
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In many Indo-English novels, the domestic space is the site of contact and conflict between tradition and modernity and of changed gender and class relationships. In Europe and America the debates on the so called women’s question were often fought in the public arena. But, as Partha Chatterjee notes, in India there are few traces of nineteenth and twentieth century women’s struggles in public documents. The struggles took place quietly in individual homes and by individual women, and “the battle for the new idea of womanhood in the era of nationalism was waged in the home” (133). Shashi Deshpande’s That Long Silence (1988) and Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us (2005) take up the terms of the battle of womanhood in postcolonial India. The modern urban apartment becomes the testing ground for friendships among women and the creation of a “womenspace” in spite of patriarchal conformity. The emotional yearning for friendship among women is one of the central aspects carried over from older haveli and bungalow homes to the newer apartments. This paper relies on my work Indian Women in the House of Fiction, where the haveli, bungalow, and apartment locations are explored in greater detail.
Although Deshpande’s That Long Silence and Umrigar’s The Space Between Us are set apart by almost two decades, the basic premise of both novels—of the necessity of female friendships for survival and of the almost in-built, structural resistance to these friendships exerted from within the heterosexual domestic...
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