Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India

Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India : The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness

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In this engaging and eloquent history, Ruby Lal traces the becoming of nineteenth-century Indian women through a critique of narratives of linear transition from girlhood to womanhood. In the north Indian patriarchal environment, women's lives were dominated by the expectations of the male universal, articulated most clearly in household chores and domestic duties. The author argues that girls and women in the early nineteenth century experienced freedoms, eroticism, adventurousness and playfulness, even within restrictive circumstances. Although women in the colonial world of the later nineteenth century remained agential figures, their activities came to be constrained by more firmly entrenched domestic norms. Lal skillfully marks the subtle and complex alterations in the multifaceted female subject in a variety of nineteenth-century discourses, elaborated in four different sites - forest, school, household, and more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 4 b/w illus. 2 maps
  • 1139848461
  • 9781139848466

Table of contents

1. Texts, spaces, histories; 2. The woman of the forest; 3. The woman of the school; 4. The woman of the household; 5. The woman of the more

About Ruby Lal

Ruby Lal is Associate Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University. She has written extensively on women and gender relations in Islamic societies in the precolonial and colonial world. In addition to numerous academic articles and political commentaries, she is the author of Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World (Cambridge, 2005). She is currently finalizing a historical biography of the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan (forthcoming).show more

Review quote

'Learned, experimental, and engagingly ambitious, Lal's book is a must-read for scholars of gender and sexuality in South Asia.' Anjali Arondekar, The Journal of Asian Studies 'Lal's excavation of an archive of largely unknown or untranslated texts, and her provocative analysis of them, makes this book well worth reading for those interested in the period and issues she discusses, in India or beyond.' Ruth P. Feingold, Journal of British Studies 'The 'art of playfulness' as a central trope in literary analysis and an emphasis on the cherished nature of women's experiences is a noteworthy exercise in any scholarship ... Lal's invitation to think about 'fragments of contest and play (within the patriarchal, within the familial) that allow other possibilities, other figures and other histories to emerge' is much welcomed and poses alternate questions for the reading of literature, gender and history in south Asia.' Asiya Alam, Economic and Political Weekly 'Lal's book is a distinct advance in the historiography of 'new patriarchy' and the making of modern Indian womanhood. By foregrounding women's agency and creativity, she makes a definite contribution to the understanding of the female world hitherto unnoticed. Her women figures appear not as mute docile objects of reform but as lively persons creatively using spaces to subvert the constraining norms. The theme of playfulness gives a refreshing quality to her work.' Shadab Bano, Studies in History 'As an ambitious project, interrogating the marginalized figure of the girl-child through imaginative concepts rupturing historical chronology, [this book] will certainly enrich the repertoire of women's history and stimulate further research.' Swapna M. Banerjee, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youthshow more

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