Bodies That Remember explores the lives and works of four of the most recognized Hindu and Urdu female poets of the twentieth century. In contrast to much of the South Asian literary criticism and postcolonial theory that concentrates on the Indo–English novel, Anantharam highlights the poetry of these vernacular writers, connecting their critical voices with nationalist and religious revitalization movements in India and Pakistan.
Focusing on Mahadevi Varma, Kishwar Naheed, Fahmida Riaz, and Gagan Gill, Bodies That Remember offers a powerful meditation on the alternative linguistic traditions found in the writings of these four poets, two from India and two from Pakistan. In doing so, the book illustrates the ways in which poetry locates the places where urban cosmopolitanism meets indigenous knowledge and produces a new understanding of identity, one that crosses traditional boundaries of caste, class, and religion.
Going beyond an analysis of women’s creative expression in the Hindu and Urdu languages, Anantharam deftly traces the intersecting veins of nationalism, literary tradition, and religion as she details the complexity of gendered identity in modern South Asia.