- Geeta Chanda
considered sacred not only because of religious sanction but because
of the commitment it implies on the part of the couple to uphold the
purity and traditions of the home. The burden of protecting the
sanctity of the home tends to fall primarily on women. Rama Mehta’s
semi-autobiographical novel Inside the Haveli traces how the Bombay
dwelling protagonist Geeta unlearns her cosmopolitan ways and is
seduced into becoming the guardian of traditional mores of a feudal,
Rajasthani haveli. Set at a historic moment in India when the
princely, feudal life-style was under threat from an encroaching
modernity of the nuclear urban life-style, Geeta embodies the threat
and brings it into the heart of the haveli. The novel traces her
gradual acculturation and the rituals that give her a stake in the
continuity of the haveli lifestyle. Ultimately the sacred lamp of
the home is seamlessly handed on from mother-in-law to
daughter-in-law to ensure the continuity of the haveli lifestyle.
Geetanjali Singh Chanda is a
senior lecturer in the Women's, Gender, and
Sexuality Studies Program at Yale University. Her
book Indian Women in the House of Fiction was published in May 2008,
and explores the idea of home in the works of Indian women writers
in English. She has previously taught at Hong Kong University and
Gettysburg College. Her research interests and publications include
issues of feminist and transcultural pedagogy, cultural dialogue,
popular culture and postcolonial literatures. Her most recent
publication is a co-authored work on Sikh masculinity in The Journal
of Men and Masculinities.
in Three Novels by Raja Rao - Janet
In exploring the
use of sacred space in literature, we must first ask what is
necessary for space to be considered sacred. Is it merely a matter
of consecrated space, such as a church, a temple or a mosque? Or
does the novelist have the power to render any space sacred by the
way in which he describes it or makes use of it in his narrative?
If we assume the latter possibility, the novels of Raja Rao, many of
which revolve around the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta, spring quickly
to mind. I will deal briefly with three scenes from three different
novels by that writer: Kanthapura, The Cat and Shakespeare,
and The Chessmaster and His Moves. In Kanthapura, we
will examine a sacred space re-consecrated by the experience of
women, locked in a temple, who sing bhajans and feel a sense of
communal ecstasy. The Cat and Shakespeare offers us an
Advaita Vedantin who, through the philosophy of the kitten carried
by the mother cat, transforms a ration shop into sacred space. A
complicated narrative, The Chessmaster and His Moves,
contains a ritual expiation which takes place in a public space
rendered sacred by an improvised ceremony. These three examples of
space made sacred are each central to their respective narratives
and reflect the novelist’s ability to verbally transform ordinary
space into sacred space, in order to heighten meaning.
Janet M. Powers
has taught at Gettysburg
College for more than 45 years and helped to initiate the Asian
Studies program with courses on South Asian Civilization, Literature
of South Asia (in translation) and Indian Literature in English.
She has served as President of the Middle Atlantic
Region/Association for Asian Studies (1997-98) and in 2004 received
the Distinguished Asianist Award from that organization. She has
published widely on South Asian literature, including the following
"Rhythm in Raja Rao's Cat and Shakespeare", "Raja Rao: Three
Tales of Independence", Raja Rao's Cow of the Barricades: Two
Stories", "Kanthapura: India En Route to Independence" and
delivered papers on many subjects including "Indian Literature in
Translation: An Historical, Interdisciplinary, and Comparative
Approach" and "Representations of Women in Indo-English Fiction".
Her recent articles deal with pedagogy as well as Indian writing in
English: “The Outsider’s Gaze” in Katherine J. Mayberry (ed.)
Teaching What You’re Not: Identity Politics in Higher
Education,“Polyphonic Voices in Nayantara Sahgal’s Rich Like Us”
and “Macaulay’s Minute on Education” and “Partition Literature”.
Her most recent
work, a book involving peace studies, will be published in
December. Kites over the Mango Tree: Restoring Harmony between
Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat.
and the American Road" -
In his seminal poem, “Song of the
Open Road,” Walt Whitman characterized road journeys as
simultaneously physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Others such
as Jack Kerouac in On the Road followed in that tradition,
but the film Easy Rider destroyed that paradigm, and it has
taken almost fifty years to reinvent it. That reinvention comes
from a most unlikely source, the director David Lynch, who is best
known for his condemnation of American suburban life, but in several
of his films, including the Elephant Man and
Straight Story, he evokes a profound spirituality as part of the
road. This paper will explore the relationship of spirituality and
the road in Whitman, Kerouac, Easy Rider, and the films of
Gordon Slethaug is
Visiting Professor of English Studies at the University of Southern
Denmark. Formerly of the University of Hong Kong and the University
of Waterloo in Canada, he has been visiting Lingnan Professor at Sun
Yat-sen University, China, and has been Senior Fulbright Professor.
He specializes in American culture, including literature and film.
He also researches in globalization and international education.
He has published many articles and four books, including John
Barth; The Play of the Double in Postmodern American Literature;
Beautiful Chaos; and Teaching Abroad.
Sacred Space of Sisterhood in Hong Kong Fiction and Film" -
21st Century Hong Kong is, on the
surface, a commercial, capitalistic, masculine and highly secular
space. Yet women's narratives of life in late 20th/early
21st century Hong Kong offer another view of the city. In
these stories, personal relationships take on particular
significance and the spiritual side of postmodern urban life becomes
apparent. The small spaces of daily life are imbued with reverence
and the most secular of urban spaces becomes a sacred refuge. As
women struggle to survive trauma and loss, they turn (often
unwillingly or unexpectedly) to other women who can relate to their
individual circumstances, offering comfort, support, and wisdom.
The sisterhood formed in these stories is often fragile or fleeting,
but it has a sacred quality to it that transcends the quotidian
concerns of individual lives. This paper will consider women’s
cultural production narrating the creation of a sacred space of
sisterhood in the most unlikely urban spaces of Hong Kong. Two
films will be discussed: “My Mother is a Belly Dancer,” (Screenplay
by Erica Lee and Susan Chan Suk-Yin, 2006) and “The Mistress,”
(Screenplay and Direction by Crystal Kwok, 1999). The paper will
also consider the fiction and essays of Xu Xi from 1997 to the
present. As Hong Kong urban space becomes sacred space, readers and
viewers are prodded to expand and refine traditional notions of
faith, belief, spirituality, and the sacred.
Ford is an Honorary Lecturer in the Department of History at the
University of Hong Kong. She recently completed a year in the U.S.
as a visiting lecturer at Hartnell College in Salinas, California.
Her publications focus on transnational American studies,
comparative women's/gender studies, U.S. history, and diasporic/expatriate
cultural production. Her book Mabel Cheung Yuen-Ting's An
Autumn's Tale *was published by Hong Kong University Press in
April 2008. Her current publications include a co authored work on