NEW RELEASE December 2013 Nonfiction
Shaping the Discourse: Women’s Writings in Bengali Periodicals (1865–1947)
Edited by Ipshita Chanda and Jayeeta Bagchi
8.5”x 5.5” pb, 466 pp, ISBNs 978-81-906760-5-2; 81-906760-6-9 Rs 550; £40.00
Comprising translations of women’s writings of Brahmo, Hindu and Muslim writers of undivided Bengal (involving present-day Bangladesh), which were published in well-known Bengali periodicals (between 1865–1947), such as Bamabodhini Patrika, Prabasi, Antahpur, Bh
arati, Bangadarshan,Bharatlaks hmi, Saogat, Nabanoor, and so on, this volume is the third reader compiled by the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, for the new Masters’ level courses in women’s studies.
Focussing on a period, of reform, conflict, change and debate, the reader explores the multi-layered social conversation about women’s issues and maps the changes in the life practices and beliefs of women as reflected in their writings with the progression of time. While there is Taherannesa writing in 1865 in Bamabodhini Patrika, and appealing, ‘O civilized men do not remain neglectful of educating women’, there is Saratkumari Chaudhurani’s article in Bharati, published in 1914, where she upholds the initiative of Swarnakumari Devi’s Sakhi Samiti for spreading education and literacy amidst women, helping widows, aiding orphans, and so on. Hence, the discourse that surfaces also follows the path of a historical narrative.
This volume traces issues like relations between men and women, and amongst women themselves to more ‘public’ concerns like women’s education and employment; child marriage, seclusion of women and the position of widows. It upholds the dichotomy between the private and the public, and the prachina, the traditional, and the navina, the ‘new’, with the emerging woman proposing an alternate way of life, thereby extending the woman’s question beyond every aspect of women and men’s social existence; putting these writings in a larger context of reform, change and conflict; and projecting the discourse on gender issues as shaped by power relations between classes, castes and communities cohabiting in society.
Ipshita Chanda is Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University;
Jayeeta Bagchi is Assistant Professor in English, National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi.