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Title: Narratives of voice and silence : reading South Asian women's writing through the work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Author: D'Souza, Karen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 0653
Awarding Body: The Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis reinvigorates the subaltern theory of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak through the application of her work to readings of fiction in English by South Asian women. The writers included in the study are rooted in the contemporary nation states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and their Diasporas. The thesis argues for the endurance of Spivak's focus on issues of representation and her recognition of the problematic history of theoretical inattention to the ways in which gender inflects retrieval of the subaltern voice. The insights generated by her work frame this investigation of how literary narratives may replicate the shadowy presence of women in the archives of the postcolonial nation. It also demonstrates how literary strategies and double-voiced narratives intrinsically seek to complicate understandings of voice and silence within particular frames of understanding. Thus, the study registers how literary interventions negotiate the complex positioning of women within and between indigenous cultural traditions. Mapping out a politics of voice and silence in South Asian contexts, the introductory chapter critiques three key ideas embedded in Spivak's theory: subject-formation of the subaltern; the relationship between subalternity and textuality; and how hegemonic structures are vexed by considerations of gender. The connections between these theoretical considerations and literary representation are made through a consideration of the pertinent debates related to South Asian women's writing and the possibilities for a gendered subaltern voice-consciousness. Chapter Two examines Anita Desai's Voices in the City (1965) alongside Nayantara Sahgal's Rich Like Us (1985) as they depict the early periods of nation building in post-Independence India. Chapter Three considers The Thousand Faces of Night (1992) by Githa Hariharan for its evocations of contemporary India contingent upon the relationship between traditional mythology and gender constructions. A trajectory tracing patterns of female subalternity is then completed in Chapter Four with a discussion of two novels critically exploring the continuities of cultural encodings in transnational settings which are inflected by diasporic histories and movements. Kamila Shamsie's Salt and Saffron (2000) and Monica Ali's Brick Lane (2003) are read for their exploration of the tensions between nationalist identities and notions of home which influence constructions of selfhood. The application of Spivak's work to critical readings of South Asian women's writing situates the literature as a subaltern history. The interplay of theory and practice defines subalternity as a fluid and unsettled category of being to frame a comprehensive understanding of women's positioning within the discourses of nation; it registers changes in the concerns articulated in post-Independence South Asian writing; it provides nuanced critical readings of fiction alert to key literary and cultural developments. The thesis extends and develops Spivak's treatment of historical silence to identify how literature might form an alternative archive attuned to the complexities of voicing the subaltern figure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available