Title page for ETD etd-02062011-221657

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author James, Ann Juli
Email juliann33@gmail.com
URN etd-02062011-221657
Document Title Figures in fine print and Hindustani hopes and fears : identity and expectations in the poetry of Kamala Das
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisor Name Title
Prof D Medalie Committee Chair
  • confessional
  • Kamala Das
  • personal poetry
  • Kerala
  • contemporary Indian women writers
  • themes expectations love lust sexuality
  • Malayalee
  • female writing
  • Kamala Suraiyya
  • Indian poets. female identity
Date 2011-04-11
Availability unrestricted
Kamala Das is one of the best-known contemporary Indian women writers, albeit largely for the controversy that her candid, confessional writing has sparked in the relatively traditional context of Indian academia. Since the publication of her first collection of poetry, Summer in Calcutta (1965), Das has been considered an important voice of her generation. Her provocative poems are known for their unflinchingly honest explorations of the self and female sexuality, urban life, and womenís roles in traditional Indian society. Critics have expressed a range of opinions on her work: some laud her boldness, compelling sincerity and striking originality, while others dismiss her work as sensationalist, limited in scope and unsophisticated.

In this dissertation, issues of selfhood represented in the poetry of Kamala Das will be analysed with regard to various aspects of her identity, such as those of a housewife, a lover, an Indian, a female writer, and a confessional poet. Selected theories on identity formation posited by Erik Erikson and Norman Holland will be explored, as will relevant hypotheses on female identity by Nancy Chodorow and Judith Gardiner. I propose that selected aspects of these theories shed light on the themes, tones and subject matter of Dasís verse. Almost all of her poems are personal and are fuelled by an intense need for emotional fulfilment. I suggest that the poetís search for love is central to her identity and I aim to show how this (largely unsuccessful) quest, as reflected in Dasí poems, stems from various expectations by and on her. The recurring theme of expectations and the resulting tones of despair (the Ďhopes and fearsí) in her work will be traced and analysed.

This research is valuable in that there has been little exploration into identity and expectations in Dasí work and there is almost no research on her emanating from Africa. Through close textual analysis I also aim to highlight how useful insights into identity formation and female writing can enable a more in-depth understanding of Dasís poetry. Both female identity and womenís writing are increasingly significant fields in academia today, and there has been a rise in autobiographical writing in recent years; thus this research will contribute to debates about these issues in contemporary poetry.

A portfolio of my own creative writing will accompany the essay. Like Kamala Das, I am also a Malayalee woman (from the province of Kerala in India) and I identify with some of her concerns with regard to the roles of women. Although my writing is not confessional or as personal as Dasís, our shared experience of the socio-cultural expectations placed upon us (due to our gender and ethnic background) links this mini-dissertation to my poetry portfolio.

© 2010 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

James, AJ 2010, Figures in fine print and Hindustani hopes and fears : identity and expectations in the poetry of Kamala Das, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-02062011-221657 / >


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