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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: October 2011

CHAPTER 5 - Touching Gender: Feminist Contexts of Tagore's Fiction


By the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century, feminism in the West was already an emergent stream of thought and action. A particular kind of gaze at the worse aspects of women's lot that had started in some stray works culminated as a systematic body of thought and action only in the early twentieth century. Even the word ‘feminism’, understood as a plea for women's rights first appeared in France in the early nineties. After Christine de Pisan's The Book of the City of Ladies, was published in 1405, it took a decade short of four centuries for the first work on women's rights influenced by Enlightenment ideals of equality, rationality and autonomy – Mary Woolstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) – to see the light of day. John Stuart Mill's Subjection of Women (1869) took another seventy-seven years to come out. It would be difficult to say that in the first case Enlightenment and in the second case Utilitarianism were the only causes of the removal of the conceptual blinkers of patriarchy. Some personal factors might also have been involved. Wollstonecraft was wife of anarchist philosopher William Godwin. Mill was under the influence of Harriet Taylor, a married woman who he loved, admired, married after a long wait, and prematurely lost.

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