From Sarojini Naidu’s ‘curved and eloquent little mouth’ to Arundhati Roy’s ‘mass of untamed curls and smouldering dark eyes’: Stereotypical Depictions of Female, Indian Authors in Reviews of their Work

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Sarojini Naidu, writing around the turn-of-the-century, is often described in contemporaneous reviews of her poetry as an exotic other, as infant-like, and as a less capable writer of English literature. Although these descriptions are disturbing, they are not surprising when one considers the wide-spread acceptance of imperialistic attitudes at the time. What is surprising, however, is that these same types of descriptions continue to appear nearly one hundred years later in reviews of another female, Indian author: Arundhati Roy. Yet the aim of this paper is not simply to point out that these reviewers are wrong in their word choices or to defend Naidu and Roy. In her essay “Where Have All The Natives Gone?” Rey Chow asserts that “many critics of colonialism attempt to write about these peoples [non-white citizens of postcolonial countries] in such a way as to wrest them away from their status as symptom or object” and that the result of these attempts “is a certain inevitable subjectivizing” (125).

Thus the intent of this paper is not to wrest Naidu and Roy away from the objectification, infantilization, and exoticization that exists in re-views of their work and to emphasize that such practices are deplorable. The degrading nature of these reviews should already be apparent. Rather, this paper strives to make known that these historical practices are still quite prevalent today, to examine the reasons behind these persistent stereotypes, and to consider how and why the authors’ use of the English language is discussed by reviewers.

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Atenea: Facultad de artes y ciencias