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Splitting/Violating the “New Indian Woman” in Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No Terrors (1980)

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The dialectics of tradition and modernity in the South Asian context often focus on the female body. Developing this discourse, Sunder Rajan [Sunder Rajan, Rajeswari (1993). Real and Imagined Women: Gender, Culture and Postcolonialism. London: Routledge.] discusses a new brand of woman that features in contemporary culture: the “New Indian Woman.” This figure is able to perfectly harmonize the conflict between tradition and modernity and negotiate seamlessly between the public and private spheres. Based on close readings, I will extend Sunder Rajan’s analysis of the New Indian Woman to Shashi Deshpande’s 1980 novel The Dark Holds No Terrors. Informed by ideas of embodiment, silence and performance, this paper considers how the unobtainability of the New Indian Woman myth in Deshpande’s novel results in a splitting of the self for the protagonist, Sarita. I argue that the splitting of the self occurs on two levels: while represented as a psychological breakdown experienced by Sarita, I contend that it is also reflected as a corporeal act through the violating literary depiction of rape.

Corresponding author: Poonkulaly Gunaseelan, M.A., Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, SOAS University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, UK

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Published Online: 2018-3-10
Published in Print: 2018-3-28

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