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A Feminist Counter-Reading of Indian Women

Author(s): Gibreel Sadeq Alaghbary

Journal: International Journal of English Linguistics
ISSN 1923-869X

Volume: 3;
Issue: 3;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Critical linguists, including feminists, argue that language is not a value-free medium reflecting the world but a medium of constructing it. In every use of language, writers have at their disposal a wide repertoire of options, albeit within a restricted set of parameters. The selections they make are calculated and signpost ideological positioning. Stylistics offers a systematic approach to the analysis of language use and the description of ideological positions and three of its ambitions have been identified: to support existing interpretations of texts, to suggest new interpretations, and to establish general points about how meaning is made (Barry, 2002). In this paper, I demonstrate how stylistic analysis can be used to investigate women representation in texts and offer a feminist counter-reading of an existing interpretive claim. The analysis in question is Prabhat K. Singh’s interpretation of Indian Women by Shiv K Kumar, which he saw as a glorification of Indian women’s integrity, richness and faith. Singh also argues the women in the poem serve as a “metaphor for feminine beauty, chastity, patience, love and trust” (Singh, 2001, p. 107). However, detailed linguistic evidence reveals the tensions and inconsistencies in Singh’s reading, and demonstrates how his positive construction of Indian women is based a few selected details that do not allow a more thorough and coherent view of the poem. Stylistic analysis is used to demonstrate how a particular interpretation has been privileged and other interpretive possibilities downplayed, and provide an alternative reading sustained by a consideration of all aspects of the linguistic make-up of the text. The image resulting from the analysis is much less favorable than the one provided by Singh’s interpretation. Kumar has indeed constructed Indian women as powerless, inactive and silenced, thereby reinforcing traditional gender roles in patriarchal cultures.
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