The Male Empire under the Female Gaze: White Women and British India (30 November 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Susmita Roye, University of Bristol

This collection of essays proposes to explore the 'female gaze' that observes, locates and shapes the Empire, which is largely viewed as 'male.' Imperialism is undeniably a male-dominated affair. However, the 'female' element in the process cannot and should not be overlooked. Women's literature about the Empire, though often neglected, is considerably large. In India's case, women writers like Maud Diver and Flora Annie Steel narrate fictional tales colored by their first-hand experience of Indian life and life in India. It perhaps becomes more interesting when male authors like E. M. Forster and Paul Scott take pains to show the imperial venture through the eyes of their female protagonists such as Adela Quested and Daphne Manners/Sarah Layton respectively.

The 'Female Gaze' has been much spoken of but not adequately emphasized and examined. In comparison, white female sexuality, the figure of Raj Woman, the idea of 'recasting women' or portrayal of the memsahib have been paid far more attention to. Particularly, memsahibs' writings have been widely anthologized but not sufficiently critically evaluated. Aiming at filling that gap by uncovering the world of British India as seen and shown by white women in colonial as well as postcolonial literatures, this compilation intends to bring together scholarly essays on Raj fiction spanning from before India's Independence (like works of Alice Perrin, Rudyard Kipling and Rumer Godden) to the post-Independence period (including the works of Paul Scott, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Ruskin Bond). The selected writers need not all be women since, as has been already pointed out, even male writers, through female characters in their writings, try to show how women looked at the imperial enterprise. Moreover, although 'inter-racial' tensions between the colonizer and the colonized are highly publicized, the 'intra-racial' tensions that are (unwittingly) revealed through their writings are still often overlooked or not widely known. Besides, one must not forget the gender-related tensions even within the same race. If white male authors blame white women for their vulnerability during the 1857 Mutiny, then white women writers like Steel fervently refute that accusation in their writings.

This volume proposes to look at this significant multi-dimensional 'female gaze' — be it of the authors or of the characters in their works, be their writings critical or supportive of the Empire. The focus will be exclusively on fiction about the Raj. To neatly structure and accommodate the rich body of such literature, the book will be divided into two sections, the first drawing attention to 'Memsahib's Fiction' and the second to 'Memsahib in Fiction.' While the first section encourages critical analysis and in-depth study of memsahibs' writings, the second intends to digress from the well-trodden track of how memsahibs are portrayed to the near-virgin arena of how they are shown to see the Raj world.

We invite scholarly essays that will engage in and significantly contribute to this stimulating debate/discussion. Topics for essays may include, but are not limited to:
=> Empire as seen by white women (of any class or category)
=> 'Colonized' women as seen by 'colonizer' women
=> Female gaze in the writings of male authors
=> Postcolonial writings about the female gaze on the Empire
=> Inter-/intra-racial tensions in such a gaze
=> Nostalgia for bygone imperial days of (female) empowerment
=> Life at Home and out in the Colony
=> Sense of exile and pain of alienation
=> Work of white women activists for the welfare of their colored 'sisters'
=> Memsahib and Lady Missionary — their respective depiction/lives/goals
=> Portrayal of barrack wives and white maid servants
=> Female 'Dissenters and Mavericks'
=> White women writers refuting flat stereotypes about themselves
=> Femininity and/or feminism in the female gaze
=> Politics of canonization with regard to male and female writings of the Empire

Please send a 700-word abstract along with a short bio to—
Susmita Roye
Department of English
University of Bristol

The deadline for the abstracts is: 30 November 2009.

Full-length papers should be of 6,000-10,000 words. An invitation to submit completed essays will not necessarily guarantee inclusion in the collection. The final decision will be made on the merit of each article.

Any questions or requests for further information should be directed to

The book will be published by a New Delhi based publishing firm of international repute.

The Editors:

Susmita Roye is pursuing her research in the Department of English, University of Bristol, UK. She has contributed several articles to volumes of essays including 'Emerging Voices: Essays and Interviews of South Asian Women Writers', 'Critical Anthology on Amitav Ghosh's *The Shadow Lines*', 'Postcolonial Indian Fiction in English and Masculinity', 'Subaltern Vision: a Study in Postcolonial Indian English Novel', and has written entries for encyclopedias like 'General Themes in Literature'. She has also reviewed books and is a member of the editorial board of *Ex Plus Ultra* (eJournal in WUN Colonial and Postcolonial Studies).

Rajeshwar Mittapalli is Professor of English in Kakatiya University, Andhra Pradesh, India. His published works of criticism include 'The Novels of Wole Soyinka', and 'Indian Women Novelists and Psychoanalysis'. He edited the New Delhi based quarterly the Atlantic Literary Review for six years, apart from co-editing with European and Indian scholars 24 anthologies of critical essays on a variety of literary subjects. These volumes include 'Commonwealth Fiction: Twenty-first Century Readings', 'Indian Women's Short Fiction', 'Salman Rushdie: New Critical Insights' (2 vols), 'V.S. Naipaul: Fiction and Travel Writing' and 'Postcolonial Indian Fiction in English and Masculinity'. His 50 articles, published in India, USA, Spain, Hong Kong, South Africa, Germany and elsewhere in the world, have been frequently anthologized. He has also contributed many entries to encyclopedias and published travelogues in international and online journals.