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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The heroine in modern Punjabi literature and the politics of desire Dhariwal, Parvinder

Abstract

This thesis project focuses on the representation of the heroine in three works of contemporary modern Punjabi literature. More specifically, I address questions regarding the importance of the heroine in literature as well as the manner in which she is portrayed. Part of the work I have done is historical in scope, as each of the heroines is constructed in accordance with the needs and perspectives of the time of her creation. I argue that the preoccupation of writers centralizing their work around women was to address the rebellion that each heroine undertakes against their subordinate position in society. However, the rebellions that occurred took place within specific historical circumstances and within larger projects within which women’s roles would be defined. The first chapter begins with Sikh reformist Bhai Vir Singh’s Sundri written in 1898. Bhai Vir Singh constructs a role model Sundri, to re-energize a sleeping community. Problematically, through this process his heroine Sundri has to sacrifice her sexuality and is transformed into a goddess whose perfection is unattainable. The second chapter analyzes a literary movement that emerges alongside the nationalist movement. Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari’s novel Anviahi Maa (Unmarried Mother) was published in 1942. The heroine of this novel is a Bengali woman named Prabha who is shunned from society for being a woman who expresses and acts on her desire. The final chapter investigates the politics of desire in Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s Loona (1965). The women in this verse play are brought to the forefront to reveal the injustices that have been committed toward them by the patriarchal society that they are trapped in. Within these three works I analyze the constructed boundaries from which these heroines cannot escape. I critique the context in which each author defends or abandons his heroine. I argue in conclusion that that there is no appropriate space in Indian society or Punjabi literature for women to present themselves as sexual beings, without being chastised.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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