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SUSIE THARU teaches English literature at the Central Institute for English and foreign languages in Hyderabad.

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Women Writing in India, Volume I

600 B.C. to the Early Twentieth Century
Susie Tharu

Edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita

These ground-breaking collections offer 200 texts from eleven languages, never before available in English or as a collection, along with a new reading of cultural history that draws on contemporary scholarship on women and India. This extraordinary body of literature and important documentary resource illuminates the lives of Indian women through 2,600 years of change and extends the historical understanding of literature, feminism, and the making of modern India. The biographical, critical, and bibliographical headnotes in both volumes, supported by an introduction which Anita Desai describes as “intellectually rigorous, challenging, and analytical,” place the writers and their selections within the context of Indian culture and history.

Volume I: 600 B.C. to the Early Twentieth Century includes songs by Buddhist nuns, testimonies of medieval rebel poets and court historians, and the voices of more than sixty other writers of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries. Among the diverse selections are a rare early essay by an untouchable woman; an account by the first feminist historian; and a selection from the first novel written in English by an Indian woman.

"When you read the riches within these covers, you'll know that a Western male bias has left all of us culturally deprived. No library or school or caring reader should be without this volume."

—Gloria Steinem, Founder and Contributing Editor, Ms.

"This splendid anthology makes visible for the first time the contours of a veritable subcontinent of women writing. The selections are wise and revealing; the introduction, meticulous and seminal. It should establish once and for all that in the study of Indian cultural history the importance of gender, far from being marginal, is profoundly structural."

—C.M. Naim, associate professor of Urdu and chair, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

"This volume is remarkable for the extensive research that has unearthed hitherto unknown texts, the sensitive translations, and the informative, analytical, and elegantly written introductions to each section. Without simplifying the complexity and heterogeneity of India, this anthology makes its literature accessible even to those outside its culture. The rich and diverse material—mystical and earthy, joyous and sad, serious and funny—opens out a densely textured, vibrant world that does not always confirm Western notions of Indian women."

—Meenakshi Mukherjee, professor of English, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

"This rich and various collection of women's voices from different South Asian eras, languages, and social conditions is much more than a dutiful supplement to an imaginary library of world literature. Responding to American feminist literary theory as well as the long history of British interpretations of Indian culture, Women Writing in India is a bold critical statement and a work of original and far-ranging discovery."

—David Lelyveld, Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University

"I have been waiting for a book like this for many years. I gratefully celebrate its appearance."

—Catharine R. Stimpson, professor and dean of the Graduate School, Rutgers University