Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 5 May 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Search for Identity and Self
in Indian Poetry in English by Women Writers

Amita Raj Gargey, M.Phil., Ph.D. Candidate

Search for Identity among Indian Women Poets Writing through English

The focus of this paper is on the search for identity among the Indian women poets who write poetry employing English as their medium of expression. Since Toru Dutt (1856-77), the first Indian women to write poetry in English, women have come a long way. They stand apart from Indian men who write poetry in English, by emphasizing their feminine identities in so many creative ways.

Apart from the expression of a uniquely and powerfully realized feminine sensibility and quest for self and identity, what distinguishes these women writers from the contemporary male poet is their realistic attitude to life, sex and lust, and their frank autobiographical, vivid, candid and bold expression of such issues. The poetic self in such 'New Poetry' concerns itself with capturing the moments of intense experience of the private life with all its uniqueness and immediacy.

Different Approaches to Exploring Self

There have been different approaches to explore self within Indian philosophical, religious and spiritual traditions: the Vedic approach was dynamic with focus on things outside the self such as rituals, as it celebrated man's relationship with nature, cosmos, earth, sky, etc. The Upanishad approach was more inward and introspective. Another approach was devotional which postulated itself in relation to God/god and then to humankind.

The 'search for self' in Indian religious and philosophical tradition becomes a major concern for the sages through meditation. For ordinary mortals, it progresses as a dialectic in terms of various relationships of man, woman and God/god. The women poets of the Bhakti movement set examples of search for women's identity within Indian spiritual tradition. Their devotion to God/god oftentimes took the motif of Lover and the loved and thus brought in intimate relations between man and woman as part of the identity process.

Issues before Sensitive Contemporary Indian Women Poets

The sensitive contemporary woman poet, today, is affected not only by the complete metamorphosis of transformation of her existence but by the very concept of her century's long suppressed feminine personality. As a result she has traversed the long journey eventually to find a distinctive voice of selfhood.

The indigenous contributing factors of such women poets have been the legacy of equality of sexes inherited from the western civilizational developments, the Indian freedom struggle, Indian constitutional rights of women, spread of education and the consequent new awareness among women. Indian women were/are caught in the flux of tradition and modernity saddled with the burden of the past. So, to overcome the traditional barriers to express freely in all walks of life constitutes the crux of feminism in Indian literature. In literary terms, this pursuit precipitates a search for identity and a quest for the definition of the self. In critical practice, it boils down to scrutinizing empathetically the plight of women characters at the receiving end of human interaction.

Indian women poets writing through the medium of English in recent years have worked consciously to create new Indian poetry in English, nourishing themselves, while at the same time asserting their individuality and expressing their sentiments and views about life.

Three Concentric Circles

In short, their poetry exhibits three concentric circles of the self in relation to society, self in relation to history with family as the core unit, and self in relation to itself, its own self propelled emotions and feelings. These poets display a different open attitude. The subjects which were taboo earlier now are openly expressed in their lines. They do not emulate, they express their thoughts, their feelings, their fears and insecurities. The reflections and deliberations come from within and they are the end product of how life has treated them, their trials, tribulations, struggles and ultimate victories.

Preference for a Confessional Mode

The Indian women poets demonstrate their love for the intensely personal confessional mode. With certain amount of attraction for the feminist views, they are all actively writing poetry. However, while their attempt is to explore the 'self' and identity in depth, most of them could only scratch the surface. There are several distinct poets who work out their projects differently.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Effect of Temporal Variations on Phoneme Identification Skills in Children and Adults - Comparative Study | Indianness in R. K. Narayan's Novel - The Man-Eater of Malgudi | English Vocabulary Learning Strategies Manipulated by the Students of Azad University, District 5: A Gender-oriented Study | The Impact and Relevance of Hedda Gabler in Modern Days | Search for Identity and Self in Indian Poetry in English by Women Writers | Teaching English in Minority Institutions | The Sociolinguistics and Cultural Considerations of English-Arabic Translation of Political News | Attitudinal Factor in Second Language Acquisition - An Illustrative Example from a Class in University | A Study on Emotional Skills and Adjustment towards First and Second Language Learning and Academic Achievement | Nonverbal Communication in Tamil Novels - A Book in Tamil | The Effect of Proficiency on Multilingualism, Error Finding, Social Class and Attitude in Multilingual Pre-University Mysore Students | A Review of Muzafar Desmond Tate's The Malaysian Indians: History, Problems and Future | HOME PAGE of May 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Amita Raj Gargey, M.Phil., Ph.D. Candidate
MIER College of Education
Jammu & Kashmir State

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