June 8, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Reading Kamala Das’ Summer in Calcutta in the 21st Century: Anushree Joshi

1 min read

Anushree Joshi takes us through interrogation and confrontation of Gender Roles in Kamala Das’ works in this literary essay


This paper attempts to analyze the feminist tones in the poetry of Indian-English writer and poet, Kamala Das, particularly focusing on the expression and problematization of gender roles in her 1965 poetry collection, Summer in Calcutta. It argues that her gendered identity manifests itself in her poetic style and aesthetic, wherein she questions the patriarchal expectations of gender – of women rooted in immanence and domesticity and of men rooted in transcendence and the public sphere. The custom of arranged marriage, domestic emotional abuse, confinement to the private sphere of domesticity, and daunting standards of feminine beauty, are some of the gendered expectations in the Indian woman’s experience that Das’ poetry interrogates. The confessional movement of poetry in the West, iconized in the poetry of women writers like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, also appears to influence Das’ mode of expression, since she emphasizes on the ‘I’ in her poems, while voicing the experience of not only her own self, but also of women as a community who have been disenfranchised socially, linguistically, politically, or culturally due to the gendered roles and expectations imposed upon them.

Keywords: gender roles, confessional poetry, domesticity, Kamala Das, feminist

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