Écriture feminine, or feminine writing, began by focusing on women but it covers writings and meanings beyond what the definition stands for.
When I started receiving submissions for this issue, it was encouraging to see how the featured poets and writers have used this term to not only depict what a woman goes through but also what it feels to be at the margins.
When we talk about margins, the first thought that comes to our mind is "outside." But outside of what? Are women the only ones standing at the margins or shall we now finally start recognizing people and their ideas and thoughts that also relegate them to the margins? Anything that does not conform to the traditional order of things is either marginalized or simply ignored as if it does not exist. In contemporary times - but why only talk of contemporary times, it has always been seen and experienced - that when an individual speaks up or speaks out in a milieu that lives by definite standards, he/she is always marginalized. Again the question turns up: marginalized to what? The power structures that surround us are fluid and do not have defined boundaries by which one can point them out. Yes, we have representatives of these structures who never fail to point out how one is supposed to live, but what is appalling and horrifying is the extent to which they can go to prove a point. Fortunately, we have voices that continue to defy them and speak out. It is standing at the margins that one can raise one's voice and speak. To be decentred gives one the freedom to move and to create.
In this Issue of Muse India, the focus of the featured essays has mostly been on women writers and they range from Indian, to Nigerian and American.
A feminist critique explores the subaltern studies of Mahashweta Devi in one of the essays, while there are two that look into the writings of Kamala Das and question the patriarchal structures that made her such an important voice. This brings us to an essay that analyzes Tamil Dalit feminist author Bama Faustina's testimonial narrative Sangati and then to another on Indira Goswami's Chinamastar Manuhtu (The Man from Chinamasta) which analyses Goswami through the lens of Cixous and vice-versa. Shifting our focus from Indian writers, we have an essay that explores the concept of Edible Écriture with a special focus on American writer Denise Chavez's A Taco Testimony. It is in the essay which explores Paul Auster's New York Trilogy that the focus shifts from women to individuals who question their identity. Novels- Second Class Citizen and Joys of Motherhood - by Buchi Emecheta, a Nigerian novelist, form a part of an essay, which looks at how Emecheta's fiction is structured by her ideological position that moves between her identity as an African woman and as a writer living in England. Essay on Julia Kristeva re-examines Giovanni Bellini's painting Madonna and Child, Nicholas Hillard's painting of Elizabeth I and Piero della Francesca's painting St. Augustine, with a view to investigate some of the crucial elements of Kristeva's 'Semanalysis.' An essay on Susan Sontag looks at the works of Sontag and at - as mentioned in the essay- How we need, more than ever, a Sontagian treatment of culture, which might enable us to identify the "fascist longings" in our midst. The last of the essays focuses on the theme of this issue – Écriture Feminine and reflects on the question of embodied subjectivity and how it continues to problematize the very concept of 'Écriture feminine.'
From non- fiction writings the focus shifts to very powerful pieces of fiction. If Black Coffee uses nostalgia to bring to life the truths/falsities about a dead man and his dead wife, then Listening to Women's Stories in my Household and Otherwise brings back to life one's childhood and traces the lives of other women in that process. Maniacal Silences question the silences that try to cover up the Jekyll and Hyde personalities that we live with, while the story Chulha poignantly looks at the lives of a newly married Sikh couple at a time when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. If Unfeminine Ways finds a voice and walks out of an abusive marriage then It Seems So Long Ago Nancy defies time and space to create an identity. Penance questions a set of attitudes and moralistic approaches towards an incident and to what extent it affects an individual involved. A very powerful voice of a woman emerges in Lingerie which defies the theories that are used to identify the "problems" that a woman goes through, and it is always about "something being wrong with a woman" and how one's behaviour and ideas always need to be in sync with the expected needs of everyone.
From fiction we move on to the works of twenty-five poets in the poetry section and each of them speak to the reader in the different ways they perceive marginalization. If some celebrate it by using it as a means to empower themselves then some critique it by reaching the centre and standing their ground. I wouldn't go into details about what each poem contains and would leave it to the reader to discern the bold voices that emerge through poetry.
In the end, it was a delight to read all the submissions and come across many familiar and unfamiliar names, which went into making the Écriture Feminine issue a reality. My sincere thanks to all the poets and writers of fiction and nonfiction for taking out time and sending their submissions. I hope these voices continue to remain as strong and as vocal as they have been here.
Issue 64 (Nov-Dec 2015)