Genealogies of Women's Writing in Contemporary South Asia - Nisha Kommattam


Thursday, March 24, 2016, 4:00pm


William James Hall, Room 105

While India’s South possesses rich and multi-lingual elite literary traditions spanning over two thousand years, contemporary writing in South India has developed vibrant sites of subversion and transgression of this heritage, linguistically, aesthetically, thematically and politically. This paper engages and historicizes these sites of transgressive innovation by taking as a starting point the work of contemporary female poets writing in Malayalam and Tamil.

My readings of this new body of writing from the past decade attend to its wider location within South Indian literary and cultural politics and the social locale of contemporary women writers. More specifically, manifold intersections of gender, caste, class, ethnicity and linguistic identity can be traced in this emerging canon. I also address the question of how this writing subverts, reappropriates or circumvents traditional poetics and societal normativities, in order to fashion what some of these poets call a new ‘language of the body’ (udal mozhi).

Tracing the genealogies of women’s writing forms part of my larger project of mapping the gendered nature of literary practices and literary historiography in post-Independence South India.