Elleke Boehmer
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East is east
Where postcolonialism is neo-orientalist – the cases of Sarojini Naidu and Arundhati Roy

This chapter on post-colonialism as neo-orientalist explores the colonialist filiations underlying post-independence representations of the colonised body, especially the female body. A study of the fin-de-siècle construction of Sarojini Naidu as Indian female poet in the 1890s, and of the literary and publishing phenomenon of Arundhati Roy in the 1990s, explores how, in almost imperceptible ways, the past of colonial discourse repeats itself upon the present that is post-colonial criticism. Here, too, the reified female body is a central, governing emblem. What is especially striking about the parallel instances of Naidu and Roy is how the several interconnections converge in the notions, on the one hand, of lyric complexity and emotional intensity, and, on the other, of singular femaleness. In the case of Naidu, this convergence is also explicitly tied in with her being oriental, and her explicitly orientalised poetry. The chapter also considers in broader terms the neo-orientalist underpinnings of post-colonial literary criticism from the west, based in part on its location in the neo-imperialist centre, and complicatedly manifested in the increasing prominence accorded Third World women writers.

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Stories of women

Gender and narrative in the postcolonial nation


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