A room of her own : romance, resistance, and feminist thought in modern Urdu poetry
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This dissertation examines the ways in which the female figure has emerged, and the ways in which women’s issues have been addressed in Urdu poetry in various ways during the twentieth century. In order to track these changes and shifts in the Urdu poetic landscape I examine five poets: Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), Akhtar Shirani (1905-1948), Kaifi Azmi (1919-2002), Parveen Shakir (1952-1994), and Ishrat Afreen (b. 1956). I argue that each of these poets represents a distinct trend in the way women are discussed in Urdu poetry. While looking at these five poets I will consider the social context in which they were writing and how their poetry engages the canonical aesthetics of the past, along with the socio-political agendas of the present. By analyzing their poetry we can trace how through romance and resistance feminist thought developed in increments throughout the twentieth century. This poetry is a reflection of the social and cultural milieus in which it was written; it can help us understand how these poets understood their roles within their culture, as well as how they tried to push the boundaries of accepted cultural norms. Through these poets we can observe how the subject of Woman, women’s issues, and gender ideology evolved in twentieth century Urdu poetry. Furthermore, studying these poets shows us how the space created by earlier poets eventually led to women using the Urdu poetry landscape for overt feminist poetry, lending authentic women’s voices to women’s issues and movements in South Asia.