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Illicit Motherhood: Recrafting Postcolonial Feminist Resistance in Edna O’Brien’s The Love Object and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Hell-Heaven
Published in Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Volume: 8
Issue: 1
Cultural constructions of passive motherhood, especially within domestic spaces, gained currency in India and Ireland due to their shared colonial history, as well as the influence of anti-colonial masculinist nationalism on the social imaginary of these two nations. However, beginning from the latter half of the nineteenth century, postcolonial literary voices have not only challenged the traditional gendering of public and private spaces but also interrogated docile constructions of womanhood, particularly essentialized representations of maternity. Domestic spaces have been critical narrative motifs in these postcolonial texts through simultaneously embodying patriarchal domination but also as sites where feminist resistance can be actualized by “transgress(ing) traditional views of ldots the home, as a static immobile place of oppression”. This paper, through a comparative analysis of maternal characters in Edna O'Brien's The Love Object and Jhumpa Lahiri's Hell-Heaven, argues that socially disapproved/illicit relationships in these two representative postcolonial Irish and Indian narratives function as matricentric feminist tactics that subvert limiting notions of both domestic spaces and gendered liminal postcolonial subjectivities. I highlight that within the context of male-centered colonial and nationalist literature, the trope of maternity configures the domestic-space as the “rightful place” for the existence of the feminine entity. Thus, when postcolonial feminist fiction reverses this tradition through constructing the “home and the female-body” as sites of possible resistance, it is a counter against dual oppression: both colonialism and patriarchy. My intervention further underscores the need for sustained conversations between the literary output of India and Ireland, within Postcolonial Literary Studies, with a particular acknowledgement for space and gender as pivotal categories in the “cultural analysis of empire”.
About the journal
PublisherMultidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Open AccessYes