Nawab Faizunnesa Chowdhurani’s Rupjalal: An Unabashed Portrayal of Female Sexuality
Abstract: Rupjalal (1876) is considered to be the first novel by any Muslim woman. Reading this one hundred and forty-one year old novel reveals many buried expressions of women’s sexuality. This paper tries to read Nawab Faizunnesa Chowdhurani’s Rupjalal in the context of the then Bengal and tries to explore how the author boldly, yet subtly, portrays female sexuality through the aesthetic quality of her craft. Chowdhurani brings in almost every possible sphere of women’s sexuality in her narration through the love story of Jalal and Rupbanu. In a time when the Victorian morality imposed on Indians was trying to ban frank sexual expression in literature, Chowdhurani writes about female sexuality, desire, female gaze, and even raises a voice against the patriarchal notion of chastity in women. Chowdhurani also plays with narrative technique and incorporates many genres in her fiction. This paper shows how Rupjalal is a feminist text in many ways. However, the paper does not aim to place Chowdhurani or her text in favor or in opposition to patriarchal or colonial contexts. It tries, instead, to unearth the expression of women’s sexuality which is buried by the intervention of Victorian imperialist and reformist culture of the nineteenth century.
Keywords: sexuality, desire, free sex, female power, Victorian moralities, phallocentric narration, narrative technique
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Published in 2017