Real and Imagined Women: Gender, Culture, and Postcolonialism

By Rajeswari Sunder Rajan | Go to book overview

3

LIFE AFTER RAPE

Narrative, rape and feminism

I

Texts lie not outside the circuit of sexual politics but implicated in them. It is this mode of implication, particularly as it results in the constitution of the sexed subject, that the feminist critical method uncovers. My investigation in this chapter bears on the issue of the raped woman as the subject of narrative and in feminism since rape is a term central to the poetics of narrative as well as a crucial area of feminist politics. How are rape, narrative structure and feminist politics imbricated? How may we contest the claims of universal/global validity advanced by feminists and narrative theorists on the grounds of rape/desire? A comparative approach, by indicating the historical and specifically contextual limits within which the terms operate in their mutually constitutive roles, serves as an empirical check and a reference point.

My exemplary text is 'Prison' (1984), a short story in Tamil by Anuradha Ramanan, which quickly and ironically plots the narrative of a raped Brahmin (upper-caste) woman. By setting up this 'third world' woman's text as a model against which the master-texts of 'first world' literature and their criticism can be measured, I exploit the resources of the comparative method. I invoke two canonical English novels, Clarissa (1748) and A Passage to India (1924), whose central episodes turn on the rape of the female protagonist. I also selectively draw upon Maya Angelou's I Know why the Caged Bird Sings (1971), Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple (1982), and Jonathan Caplan's film, The Accused (1988), to serve as representative contemporary American 'feminist' narratives of rape. The texts I choose are deliberately heterogeneous, occupying different historical, cultural, racial and gendered locations. This heterogeneity fosters the exploration of difference and sameness within a broad thematic, the representation of rape/the raped woman as the subject of narrative, and the different politics that they engender within feminism. In the concluding section, I draw together these scattered observations on the texts of rape to relocate it within the politics of feminism.

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Real and Imagined Women: Gender, Culture, and Postcolonialism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Acknowledgements x
  • I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Subject of Sati 15
  • 2 - Representing Sati 40
  • 3 - Life After Rape 64
  • 4 - The Name of the Husband 83
  • 5 - Gender, Leadership and Representation 103
  • 6 - Real and Imagined Women 129
  • Index 147
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