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ISSN: 0974-892X


July, 2011



Abha Shukla Kaushik

Malti Agarwal (ed):  Women in Postcolonial Indian English Literature: Redefining the Self, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors (P) Ltd., 2011  Pp 286 Rs.  695.00

Women’s studies is today accepted as an important field for debates and discussions in the academic circles. From the postcolonial perspective it becomes all the more relevant as women can be placed in the space of margin in the center- margin binary. The status of Indian woman has seen many changes over time. The woman who was worshipped and respected in the Vedic period was relegated to the position of a slave during the medieval period. However, with the advent of western education and thought the Indian woman has once again come to forefront. Social changes have pitted the Indian woman against contradictory forces like tradition and modernity. These changes in the life of woman have been reflected in works of Indian English writers especially women writers. For these writers the struggle of Indian woman whether in her search for an identity, in trying to find a place for herself under the sun, issues related to her empowerment and emancipation, her trials and tribulations in the process are a major area of concern. Malti Agarwal’s latest edited book titled ‘Women in Postcolonial Indian English Literature: Redefining the Self’ has thirty one critical papers on the literary works of eminent writers of India. The papers discuss the image of the Indian woman in all its variegated aspects as presented by these writers. The first paper by Shrawan Kumar Sharma highlights the portrayal of women in postcolonial literature. Sudhir Kumar Arora’s paper analyses women’s poetry and their struggle against patriarchy. Neha Arora tries to understand in her paper whether the so called liberation of women is for real. Usha Bande studies the silencing effect of various socio-cultural paradigms of human relationships on women in Shashi Deshpande’s  ‘AMatter of Time’ in her scholarly paper.  Nayantara Sahgal’s novels and depiction of women therein are the topic of discussion in as many as four papers. The book has an equal number of papers on the famous dramatist Vijay Tendulkar dealing with his delineation of women’s problems in his plays. Three of the papers in the anthology are on Anita Desai’s women and two on Manju Kapur’s works. Beena Agarwal and Ranjana Mehrotra have analysed Anita Nair’s novel ‘Ladies Coupe’ in their papers. Hemlatha K.’s paper on women in Mahesh Dattani’s plays brings out the wide range of women belonging to different times and classes in his plays. M. L. Garg explores a woman’s  vain quest for perfection in Girish Karnad’s play Hayavadan. Other papers discuss women as portrayed by writers like Ambai, ChetanBhagat , Arundhati Roy, Kamala Das, Mahashweta Devi, Kamala Markendeya, Nisha da Cunha, Gita Hariharan and Ismat Chugtai.

The papers in this anthology are well researched and successfully bring to light the image of the Indian woman in all shades and colours. The treatment of different writer may be divergent but the one fact that they all seem to be unanimous about is that the Indian woman is changing. She is trying redefine herself by making serious efforts to change their lives through self-analysis and self-understanding moving in the direction of self-sufficiency not only economically but also intellectually and emotionally. The book will certainly be useful to research students and teachers of English literature.