Writing the Body
The body is a fiercely contested site in both Western and Eastern epistemological discourses. Philosophers have never been at home with it, and their attitudes towards it have either been dismissive or disregardful. In Socrates’ dialogue Crito (recorded, of course, by Plato), the body is unambiguously a hindrance to knowledge, and in Immanuel Kant’s A Critique of Pure Reason, the body is merely a receptacle of senses. In the Indian context, the Bhagabat Gita takes a dim view of the body, deeming it extraneous to the soul, which abandons it like a worn-out garment, while the Buddhist scriptures subjugate it to Citta, the supreme seat of consciousness. At the other end of the spectrum are classical texts like Vatsyana’s Kamasutra, which celebrates the regenerative and pleasurable aspects of the body, and Shivapurana, which, in its concept of ardhanriswara, adores its fusive, androgynous potential. The book springs from such combative discourses, and, in the perspective of Indian English poetry by women, regards as its thematic fulcrum the phenomenological perception of the body, especially Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “body scheme” (schéma corporel) and Hélène Cixous’ idea of “writing the body” in her project écriture féminine. The 15 articles in the book attempt to study how Indian women write their bodies while writing poetry in English in order to construct their self-images, and/or to fight the physical, emotional, and epistemic violence of the patriarchic demon.