Reading Indian English Women?s Writing-Between Identification and Alienation


  • Lotta Strandberg


My paper addresses the challenges in cross-cultural reading. The ethical dilemmas we face when reading across cultural border are not simply a question of tensions between the "exotic", the "native informant" and reader identification. It is also a question of identifying a different or versatile reader position, which is not based on centralising the reader, but gives room for a variety of reader positions within the authorial audience. My paper will analyse Indian English women's writing through this lens and I will develop an argument, which considers the ethical dimensions of reading. How can we read fiction and understand the contextual dimensions of fiction, its impact and place in contexts that are alien to us? The gender politics in Indian English women's writing exemplifies my inquiry into cross cultural reader positions. In a comparative approach I analyse how Shashi Deshpande's novel The Long Silence (1988) and Githa Hariharan's novel The Thousand Faces of Night (1992) in different ways places gender at the for front of social reformulations. Yet a feminist reading, which focuses on agency, will lose sight of the gender politics in both novels. To identify exactly how these novels voice a feminist agenda becomes even more demanding in cross-cultural reading and most readings (Indian and non-Indian alike) of the novels focus on the 'doll house' syndrome. The reason why most readings fail to recognise the feminist interventions in the two novels are, I argue, because of an presupposed assumption of how politics and literature interact, and how this relationship is supposed to look like. I posit in my paper that cross-cultural readings need to address the question of context, politics and reading by ethically questioning the position of the reader as part of a versatile reader position.






H. Hybridity and politics / Hybriditet og politik