The Woman Writers in The Literary History of Kannada

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      Many critics have observed that the Modernist movement in the European literary tradition was "male-centered" and "patriarchal" in its orientations. In "Sexual Linguistics: Gender, Language, Sexuality", Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar point out that. A number of male modernists react against the voices of evil, which they associate with a contaminating feminization of culture, for they fear that "the whole generation is womanized; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it's a feminine, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age.

      Few women writers have been included in the high modernist canon. The modernist movement that set certain standards of 'excellence' for others in creative writing in terms of style, form and language has successfully excluded women from the literary realm. A similar "masculine" trend is traceable in the modernist literary movement in other Indian literatures (despite the obvious difference in contexts and assimilations). The Modernist poetry that preceded contemporary women's poetry of the post nineteen eighties, believed that with its specific qualities and special use of language, literature has a unique ability to express the knowledge given by other disciplines in its own way.

      The 'Navya' or the modernist movement, of the late sixties in Kannada too was highly patriarchal. Influenced by the literary modernism of the European literary tradition, Navy a emerged in a very big way in Kannada. Navya, a highly self-centred literary movement emphasized on the complex literary expressions of the intricate personal experiences of the writer. Navya poetry is overloaded with themes of disillusionment, alienation and pessimism about modernity. It naturally did not have many woman writers in it, as the realities dealt with by the women writers were different. They mostly continued to write novels and short stories during this period.
      Literature enjoyed the highest status during the modernist era which no other discipline had till then occupied in the Kannada socio-political scenario. The modernist phase was the most popular literary phase in both Kannada (Navya) and in Hindi (Prayogvaad, Nayi Kavitha and A-Kavitha). The main thrust of the Modernist poetry in Kannada and Hindi is similar. Both considered literature as something special and autonomous. Literary modernism ruled the intellectual scene with an imperialistic approach and embodied experiences of the male world. The modernist writers enjoyed a unique status in the socio-political realms of the society. It represented a different ideology which also marginalized women's questions. Male writers molded language, imagery and presentation to suit their expression and marginalized the social questions raised by various writers, including women, in their texts dominated the poetry scene especially during this period. The
established critics in Kannada, for whom issues related to women were of no great significance, did not consider women's writing as serious writing but criticized women for their inability to write "good poetry". Modernism politically celebrated liberal democracy. It stood for 'high culture' as proposed by Eliot, Pound, and Leavis. Modernism also highlighted the individualistic experience of the middle-class male and the aspirations and ideologies of the Indian educated middle class. This research further examines the forms of resistance offered by the post eighties women's writing in Kannada and Hindi to the preceding modernist, patriarchal movements.

      After the eighties, the social situation in India began to change. Various literary movements like the Bandaya, Dalita, Yuva Kavita, Janwadi Kavita began to emerge. The oppressed groups like women and Muslims started writing. Questions of patriarchies and gender discrimination began to be prominently raised in women's poetry and started deviating from the mainstream after Navya and Nayi Kavitha. The Bandaya (The Rebel) and the Dalita (The Oppressed) movements followed the Navya in Kannada. Writers who initiated these two movements in Kannada focused on women's issues in their writings as one of the issues addressed during the period. However here the class and caste always prioritized gender. Though writings by women received sufficient attention these movements did not specifically focus on women poets.

      From the late eighties, women poets in Kannada are seen prominently voicing the issues related to gender discrimination and patriarchies. Sa. Usha, Pratibha, M R Kamala and H L Pushpa are a few poets to name. In the case of Hindi, the Prayogvaad or the Experimentalist poetry movement started by Ajney had two women poets, Shakunta Mathur and Kirthi Choudhary. But they did not have a separate identity. Nayi Kavitha (the New Poetry) was a further development of Prayog Vaad. The A-Kavitha movement that criticized the class / hierarchical social structure followed this. The poetry of this period highlighted the life of the economically poor and the marginalized. This movement had a highly pessimistic attitude towards life. Mona Gulati is the only woman poet associated with this movement. Anger, disillusionment and an intense longing for death are some of the special elements of the short-lived A Kavitha movement. This was followed by the Naxalwadi armed struggle of 1967 giving birth to the Yuva Kavitha (poetry by the new generation) movement. This movement enabled the marginalization of modernist trends. In the early eighties, with the leftist tendencies of the Yuva Kavitha, poets started writing with a democratic sprit, which in turn gave birth to the Janwadi Kavitha (Poetry of the Masses) movement. Several women poets associated with this movement and later influenced by the feminist movements have been constantly demanding for identification separate from the mainstream. Katyayini, Anamika, Sumathi Ayar, and Archana Verma are a few among them.

      Women raised questions in relation to their subjectivities being constructed and portrayed by the dominant groups. Though the changes that appear have to be read in relation to Indian Nationalism and the developments that followed in the later years, we need to note that this is the time when the representation of identities emerged in a significantly definite way. This is a period when various social groups such as women, dalit, linguistic and religious minorities were questioning the all-pervasive notion of Indian Nationalism in literature. It was against this background that various oppressed identities and literary movements like the Bandaya, Dalila, Yuva Kavita. Janwadi Kavita, women's writing, Muslim writing, etc., emerged predominantly as new trends in Kannada and Hindi.


      In this part of the writing, I shall attempt to show how literary Histories written by men have failed to recognize women writers contribution to literature. In his essay on Modern Kannada Literature and the Common People, D. R. Nagaraj talks about how the concerns of modern Kannada literature are drawn from the upper caste apprehensions and thus the plight of the common people remains as a mere sympathy. He points out: Most scholars of Navodaya literature perceived the common man’s reality, i.e., poverty, to be the everlasting truth. Such a perception may invoke sympathy about the common man's state of affairs. They never realized the paradoxical extremities of advocating oneness of humanity to a society based on inequality.

      The category of common man for whom he argues precisely excludes women. It is an argument for the lower caste, economically backward but obviously for the men belonging to these categories. Another important critic Kirthinatha Kurthakoti's work on the History of Modern Kannada Literature has one whole chapter dealing with the emergence of modern Kannada poetry in the late nineteenth century. He starts with the form Bhavageete the lyric, its development in Kannada and moves on to say how the new form of poetry silently emerged in Kannada and later appeared in its full form in B. M. Srikanthaiah's "English Geethegalu". Then he moves on to mention certain important literary establishments like the 'Geleyara Gumpu'u in Dharwad that led to the flourishing of Kannada poetry. He also talks of 'Taliru' and 'KiriyaKaanike', two important anthologies of poetry published in Mysore. The chapter carries a lengthy discussion on the poetry of Bendre, K. V. Puttappa and K. S. Narasimha Swamy. He discusses romantic poetry as well as writings by progressive writers. This is followed by Kurthakoti's discussion on modernist poetry wherein poems by Gopalakrishna Adiga take the forefront.

      The contribution of women to Kannada poetry scenario is completely ignored and kept in the dark. The reason for this is made clear in his other book, 'Nuuru Mara Nuuru Swara' (A Hundred Trees, A Hundred Voices) published in 1998. 'Nuuru Mara Nuuru Swara' is Kirthinatha Kurthkoti's another voluminous book comprising of sixty articles on various aspects of Kannada literature. It has a two-page article on "Literature and Feminism". The author believes in the dichotomy of qualities attributed for men and women. Purusha (man)-Paurusha (the valor) vs Sthree (woman)-Sthairya (the patience). His analysis works within this traditional framework that ascribes set qualities for men and women. In this article, though he agrees that there are umpteen numbers of women writing in Kannada, he points out that - The basis of truth now is its machoism. If it has to be the basis of tolerance, history will have to change. It really makes sense only when women do something men cannot. According to Kurtakoti at this point of time where history is associated with men and their valor, it is impossible for women writers to make their point. Though he agrees that there is an attempt by women to write his preconceived notions regarding their capabilities holds him from considering their writings as important.

      The 1999's special issue of the Kannada magazine. Prajaavaani', carried an article on "Women’s Poetry in Kannada" 15 written by G. S. Amur, a well-known Kannada critic. This article gives sufficient details about how male critics directly associate femininity with poetry by women. Amur has demonstrated how the expectations of male critics direct the mode of women's poetry According to him influenced by such expectations women poets tend to exaggerate their femininity and have ended up writing 'bad poetry'. Though he does not mention anything in particular for Amur there are certain "bad" elements in women's poetry. Later in 2001, he writes an elaborate essay on 'Modern Kannada Poetry', in his book in English titled 'Essays on Modern Kannada Literature', published by Karnataka Sahithya Academi in 2001.

      Here, Amur reserves one single line at the end of the article to mention poetry by women in Kannada and it says. Another post Navya development is the emergence of women's literature which is related to other protest movements. This movement has produced some fine poets.  He concludes his statement on women's poetry by listing a few names of contemporary women poets. This attitude of male critics is an example of how women's poetry in Kannada is considered as something not worthy of discussion by the scholars of the History of Kannada Literature and how they marginalize women's poetry by considering it simply as a product of one more protest movement. Thus poetry by women is seen and is set against mainstream poetry comprising of only male poets whose poems are represented as 'the Kannada Poetry'. When it comes to the writing of the History of Literature to be published by the distinguished intermediaries like Sahithya Academi the women poets get censored. What is projected to non-Kannadiga readers in the form of literary history says nothing about the vibrant women's expressions in modern Kannada poetry.

      The literary scene in Hindi is not very different. In Hindi, 'Kavita Ki Sangat VI', a highly acclaimed critical volume by Vijay Kumar published in 1995 does not recognize even a single woman poet. The critic has written a special chapter on Hindi poetry of the eighties. This is a period where women's poetry takes a different trajectory and voices itself in a major way. But the author remains silent over such a vibrant new development in Hindi language. Likewise. 'Hindi Sahitya Ka Doosara Itihas' (A Second History of Hindi Literature), by Bachchan Singh published in 1996 has a special chapter on contemporary poetry titled, 'Audhuniktavaadaur Navy a Pragativaad (Janvaad)' (Modernist and New Progressive Movements) wherein he discusses the poems by Leeladhar Jagori, Chandrakanth Devtale, Binod Kumar Shukl. Kumar Vikal, Arun Kamal, Manglesh Dabral, Ashok Vajpayee, Uday Prakash, etc., at length and mentions many other men writing poetry. Not a single woman poet gets mentioned in this chapter.

      As a response to such indifference shown towards women writing, Suman Raaje writes a book titled 'Hindi Sahitya Ka Aadha Itihas' (The Other half of the History of Hindi Literature), published in 2003, in which she discusses exclusively women's writing at length. Suman Raje in her article on - Contemporary Women's Poetry' specifically mentions that great critics in Hindi, writing on contemporary poetry like Vishvaambar Naath Upadhyaay and Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari and others 44 have never considered poetry by women important. She points out that if the critics think that the poetry by women is limited and not up to the mark, they should consider the poems at least to prove this instead of ignoring.

      Literary histories in Kannada and Hindi have seen women's writing as a homogenous category and thereby have failed to recognize existing diversities. Women's relationship with men. other women and their immediate surroundings vary due to various reasons. Their caste /class background and regional identities that come up in their writings remain unnoticed. Without taking all these into consideration, literature by women are simply seen as one category that could be granted the last few pages in a literary history. Rewriting histories and rethinking about women's writing becomes an important engagement in the post eighties.

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