Tense Past, Tense Present: Women Writing in English


Author: Joel Kuortti

8185604584 | HB | pp. 243 | 2003 | Bhatkal and Sen

Through several interviews, Tense Past, Tense Present, looks at why women write in English in India.

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‘When you are trying to find a way out of the silence, you need words. I have this feeling when reading Indian women writers that they are—as Rushdie puts it, “re-shaping English”— so that women could talk about what is never said.’ Thus Kuortti interviews Shashi Deshpande, trying to ascertain why women write and why they write in English. Writing in English cannot be neutral. As a colony, the language was inescapably associated with class, race and power; after independence it has grown in power and status, yet the problematic of English as the language of the hegemonic West remains. Even so, a new canon of women writing in English is being formed.

Women writing in English in India do not form a coherent group. They come from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and do not share a single vision of ‘India’. Interviewing seven women writers, Shashi Desphande, Shama Futehally, Githa Hariharan, Anuradha Marwah Roy, Mina Singh Lakshmi Kannan and Anna Sujatha Mathai, Kuortti also presents extracts from their writings.

Kuortti elicits intriguing responses on why they choose to write in English, their views on the diasporic writings of Indians and the regional languages. They speak frankly about the women’s movement and all assert that they are not feminists, yet the interviews reveal that they support many of the goals of feminism. Aware of the changing status of English and of women writers within India, Kuortti ably analyses this new cultural phenomenon.


Joel Kuortti




Bhatkal and Sen





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About the Author

The author is Acting Professor of English at the Department of English, University of Tempere, Finland. Apart from Indian women’s writings in English, he is interested in diasporic Indian literature and postcolonial and feminist literary theory. His publications include Indian Women’s Writings in English: A Bibliography (2002), Fictions to Live In (1998), Place of the Sacred (1997), The Salman Rushdie Bibliography (1997).


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