Thursday, 18 July 2013

Online version available

Dear readers,

An online version of the journal is now available. Please visit to access the same.

Thank you.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

From liminal spaces: androgyny/androgynous positions in literature and contemporary cultures

“Two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain, the man predominates over the woman and in the woman’s brain, the woman predominates over the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is when the two live in harmony together, spiritually cooperating.”
- Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (1922).
As Carl Jung adequately put it, “animus is within women as their repressed masculinity and anima is within male as their repressed femininity.” A classic, enduring example of this is the titular deity Ardhanarishvara, symbolising the amalgamation of Shiva and Parvait, the masculine and feminine energies of the universe, and demonstrating how the latter is inseparable from the former. This androgynous principle may also be located in the works of Virginia Woolf, a Modernist for whom androgyny serves as a metaphor to indicate acumen that is luminous, creative, and unconstrained by parochialism and grievances: for her, a purely feminine or purely masculine mind cannot create or generate a great work of art, a truly incandescent mind being one which is not limited by narrow prejudices.
Of course, far more than in so-called canonical or high culture, gender is being redefined – gender bending as it is known – in what is called popular culture. From the early 1920s, figures like Louise Brooks have been seen as popularising themselves as flappers by virtue of their bobbed haircuts and raw sexuality. Throughout the twentieth century, performance artists like Annie Lennox, Michael Jackson and Boy George have, through their works and the sheer preponderance of their persona, fused the masculine with the feminine in ways which have given an unsurprising leeway to the androgynous in contemporary urban vocabulary. In our own times, the likes of Justin Bieber and Kailash Kher – allowing for the injustice of this medley – too may be seen as gender bending in interesting and insightful ways.
Ultimately, it is this sense of bending, of fusion, which this issue of Literophile is interested in. For Issue 2, Volume 6, we invite original and annotated papers and/or semi-academic articles and commentaries of not more than 3,000 words on androgyny in literature and the performative arts in the century past and present by the 15th of July, 2013. Submissions, which must be mailed in MS word format to, may focus on, but need not be limited to, the following:
  • Androgyny and Bi: convergences, if any
  • Androgyny as (literary and/or performative) narrative technique
  • Ardhanarishvara: myth and comics        
  • Androgyny: third gender?
  • “Baby, baby, baby ohh!”
  • Cross-dressing and Comedy Circus: androgyny and typecast
  • Male gaze: gay = feminine ≠ androgynous?
Please note that papers must be annotated in accordance with MLA regulations. Contributors must also submit short bio-notes – not more than 300 words – along with submissions. Contributors will be intimated by last week of July regarding acceptance/rejection.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Depiction of ‘Gay’ in Literature and Cinema

In postmodern era when we are left with no centre to hold things together, emerges an anxiety to find some centres, pieces of glass to recreate the whole. The search even takes in account the cultures which existed, and exist but couldn’t find niche in the (re) productive society. 

As Foucault says, Sex is not modern, talking about it is. Gay culture is not a recent, sudden development in the progress of human civilisation, as scholars would argue, it had been in society from unlettered times. Same sex bonding – emotional, physical and intellectual – have always been integral to human interactions and have been documented as such. After Freudian impact, human identity gets defined in terms of sexuality and sexual orientation leading to the invention of new terms and terminologies, however it has its own inadequacies. Hoshang Merchant writes in preface to Yaarana, “Many educated Indians confuse ‘homosexual’ with ‘eunuch’.” Gay identity is misunderstood. Bollywood, through misrepresentation, further betrays gay identity. 

This issue of Literophile aims to generate comment on literature dealing with/discourse on Gay identity from this point of reference. Accordingly, our interest here is same sex male relationships – gay relationships – only, and we invite by Sunday, 7 th of April 2013 original and annotated papers and/or semi-academic articles and commentaries of not more than 3000 words on the same. We invite submissions on gay identities and experiences from in and beyond the subcontinent. Submissions may be built around, but not simply be restricted to, the following: 

 ‘Gay’: etymolog(ies)y and aesthetics 
 Engendering queerness: towards a gay narratology 
 Being gay: rights, activism and fiction 
 Criticism and the gay explosion 
Dost ‘dost’ na raha: same sex subtexts in normative cinema 
 Gay, effeminate: myths; practices 
 Cinema and homophobia 

Please note that papers must be annotated in accordance with MLA regulations. Contributors are also requested to submit short bio-notes (of not more than 200 words).

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Interrogating the feminist in contemporary (popular) culture

What do men and women want?

Maybe this has been discussed too often. Yet, the novelty of our rapidly transforming times uncomfortably redirects it to us. The acute specialization and compartmentalization of our living experiences means that often we’re observing the most obvious things from an outsider’s perspective. Of course, the full picture is hardly available to us (if ever it was available to humanity) despite our best efforts to empiricise our little knowledge and so, in that sense, tepid and stereotypical gender roles have always polarized opinions in all ages.

What we face, then, is the task of coming out of our respective existential bubbles to interrogate what we prefer to see, hear, think and speak forth. Feminist convictions have been challenged throughout the ages by the most hostile and fundamentalist naysayers. It is to the feminist/specialist that we have to go to understand the shifting patterns of women’s liberation and feminism and their location within and as part of the changing theatres of our civilisational battles.

This issue, therefore, is addressed to the feminist movement – the feminist movement not in the academia but in so-called popular culture, in and amongst the masses as it were. For if we are to successfully counter the alarmingly popular charge that feminists have become outmoded in this commodified globalised world, we must generate discourse on the reach and efficacy of feminism not within the confines of universities and the supposed centres of (formalised) theory but in all those areas and places which it has always meant to invert. Also, if much of feminism has become gentrified in accordance with bourgeois models, then we need to explore the relevance of such politics as it relates to our present and to our future.

In a way, what is at hand is not feminism but feminisms. For Issue 2, Volume 5 of Literophile, we invite critical interrogations on the presence and success of these feminisms – radically subversive of bourgeois politics or otherwise – in streets, homes and workplaces. These interrogations should be mailed to by Sunday, 15th of July 2012 as original and annotated papers and/or semi-academic articles and commentaries of not more than 3,000 words. Contributors may focus on the following pointers:

a)      Traditional woman verses modern woman: a misconceived/untruthful divide?
b)      (Re?)defining ‘Indian woman’ in mainstream media. Soap operas, cinema, music and more.
c)      Obsessions of urban women: commodification and identity.
d)     An activist academia? Changes in feminist theory globally.
e)      Grassroots activism: women’s empowerment or bourgeois indoctrination?
f)       (Re?)claiming the city: feminism, urbanity and the anxiety for space.
g)      Yours graphically: feminism, erotica, porn.

Please note that papers must be annotated in accordance with MLA regulations. Contributors are also requested to submit short bio-notes (of not more than 200 words).

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Art as a mode of resistance to colonialism in India: Call for Contributions; Issue 1, Volume 5, Literophile

In the history of India’s anti-colonial struggle, revolutionary ideological innovations and political upheavals are usually located in the 1920s. It was then that surging nationalistic fervour gave civil resistance a central role in the anti-colonial struggle and it was against this backdrop that art in India emerged as an effective medium for the expression of anti-colonial sentiments.

At the end of the year 1922, an exhibition of the works of various Bauhaus artists was held in Calcutta; a momentous event due to which December 1922 is often identified as the fount of Modernism in Indian art. Artists developed aspects of art as expressions of carefully cultivated modes of resistances and interactions between global modernity and nationalist politics in the construction of a national identity led to adoption of a new language of Modernism by Indian artists. In this way, artists came to play a central role in India’s anti-colonial struggle and their works became a reflection of debates and political concerns of the times. Such engagement of art with the politics of decolonisation/anti-colonialism becomes all too evident in the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Shergill, Jamini Roy, the towering figures of Modernism in Indian Art. Modernism provided these three and several Indian artists with the artistic vocabulary and freedom to respond to Colonialism in their own unique ways.

Issue 1, Volume 5 of Literophile invites from the student community original and annotated papers and/or semi-academic articles and commentaries of not more than 2,500 words respectively addressing issues and debates that emerged at this particular juncture in history. Contributors may also append images of particular art works should they be pertinent to their contributions. We invite by 25th March, 2012 interpretations of works of various artists, comments on critical responses to these art works or analyses of popular responses to various artists and their works. However, this is not meant to limit discussions in papers to merely the areas discussed above. Our aim is to encourage intellectual and literary engagement with this period in history and hopefully, also evoke and respond to questions pertaining to the role of art in society. Please mail contributions and queries to

Monday, 31 October 2011

Notions of Body Ownership in Cinema

The likes of John Locke and Emmanuel Kant propagated one’s authority over one’s body, the right which is earned by being its first owner and having used it per se. They substantially upheld the owner’s channelization of the body which, they believed, justified one’s monopoly over it. These notions of body ownership, though part of common parlance, have been challenged and deconstructed time and again in Cinema. Multiple films across cultural and temporal barriers have consistently raised an existential question – is my authority over my body really beyond negotiation? Who, for example, owns a prostitute’s body or an infant’s and what would be the yardsticks to determine that ownership?

While on one hand, Chandni Bar (2001) and similar films reflected upon capitalistic arrangements concerning the body through the fabric of a prostitute-client nexus, on the other hand, movies like Being John Malkovich (1999) and Identity (2003) explored one’s body through the manipulation of someone else’s mind. In the former, characters travelled through actor John Malkovich’s (playing himself in the film) mind; in the latter, a single character designed the rest of the characters in the film in his head and manipulated them as per his whims and fancies in parallel with the “unreliable narrator”. More familiar examples in the same vein in the contemporary mainstream context would be The Butterfly Effect or even the Final Destination series where the bodies of the characters submit to an omnipotent unseen force called Death.

What Descartes believed to be the mind-body dualism is then opposed by Freud’s reinforcement of the hidden inner forces of the mind that influence the body. While Descartes preferred to ignore the sub-conscious and consider that the mind and the body are two independent entities which are not related to one another, Freud was inclined towards reinforcing the sub-conscious and stressing on its influence in not just the mind but also in physical attributes of a person. Interestingly, in cinema, these repressed desires have found agency as the faceless heroes or famous anti-heroes, as depicted in the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) or the dystopian V in V for Vendetta (2006) where both hang in a middle-ground with the dilemma of body-ownership as a periphery.

We call for contributions that would enhance boundaries of explorations in the realm of body ownership. Original and annotated academic papers and/or semi-academic articles and commentaries of not more than 2,500 words respectively are invited by the 24th of December, 2011. Also, from this issue onwards, Literophile will be open to all students wishing to research on our themes regardless of their academic and institutional affiliations. Please mail contributions and queries to

Friday, 19 August 2011

Issue 2, Vol 4: Tales Terrible

Pg 1


Life presents a Dismal Picture,
Dark and dreary as the tomb,
Father’s got urethral stricture,
Mother’s got a prolapsed womb.
Uncle James has been deported
For a homosexual crime,
Nell, our maid, has just aborted
For the forty-second time...

I came across these lines recently in an eminent literary magazine that was reviewing The Way to Go by Upamanyu Chatterjee and wondered how all that is grievous, putrid, dark and violent invariably provides a good breeding ground for creativity. It then struck me that most of literature, be it poetry, drama or the novel form, follows the same theme and invariably enjoys a tremendous readership.

Does contention, fear, anger, loss really bring about an inspiration to create something that will not only vent out the frustration within but also work as a reformatory social exercise? When we say that the lives and works of artists, critics and society are intricately woven together, we are also saying that social taboos, evils and incidents threatening Apocalypse inevitably do become the fount of creativity. For example, the genre of science fiction can be looked upon as one thriving on the idea of the unknown, an idea which then becomes synonymous for all that is uncharted and forbidden, hence dangerous. The rise of artificially intelligent creations of the human mind against their makers, the fear of death resulting from breaking bonds of conventions and social comfort levels, jealousy, anger, loss...these are all themes that have essentially inspired a number of books, some even winning laurels all over the world.

However, sci-fi is not the only genre that employs some of these themes; contemporary fiction continues to weave ideas of grief, transcendence, ambition, over-reaching, schizophrenic frenzy, terror and mysticism into its fabric. Indian authors – if one may be allowed that momentarily – are known to employ these themes to comment on a variety of issues that plague society. Then again, Russian literature continues to boggle minds with dark characters and sagas of personal and communal grief and trauma.

In this issue, with the theme Tales Terrible: Then, Now and Beyond, we critically analyse much that makes literature sad, dark and deadly. From fanatical ambition to fantastical desire, our contributors delve into a host of motifs and motives that have inspired horror in many across space and time and have thus been the basis of countless articulations, expressions and representations of that fear and terror which – for now at least – we believe to be essentially a foundational premise of human society and interaction. Amongst these, we are especially grateful to Ms. Amrita Singh, research scholar and faculty in the Department of English, Kamala Nehru College, for lending us her interesting and incisive paper on representation of conflict and dissent in Afghanistan through editorial cartoons. In seeking stranger and stranger and yet simultaneously infinitely conventional ways of artistic articulation as well as creative criticism, Literophile is always pleased to support all that challenges our notions of both acceptable and subversive representation and this, in discussing criticism of much that is bone-chillingly macabre and disgusting through a medium apparently totally frivolous and flippant, achieves as much. For this, then, and for everything else that came in, we are grateful and hope that when you, as a reader, engage with the criticism that follows, you will not only respond academically but also imaginatively, uniting the two in a manner that treats the subject as object and vice versa and thus makes our endeavours in bringing this to you fruitful and relevant.
Prashaste Sinha,

Pg 2


The ‘Forward Wits’ of Doctor Faustus ...3
Ipshita Nath nuances received notions of the transgression(s) and tragedy of Marlowe’s Faustus by juxtaposing the politically charged rhetoric of predestination, free will and sin against the scientific and medical advancements of the European Renaissance.

Misery and Mistress - The Politics of Fantasy in Fairy Tales ...7
Deeptangshu Das critiques a few popular fairy tales from the Grimm canon to examine how femininity and sexuality get transformed under the overarching logic of patriarchal desire to both be commodified and, at the same time, acquire connotations of darkness and danger.

Conflict and Dissent - Editorial Cartoons and the Politics of Afghanistan ...10
Amrita Singh comments upon the “(re)presentation” of the socio-cultural crises in Afghanistan through cartoons, a medium which is at once stark and visibly forceful even as it is replete with a continuing sense of humour and, to an extent, flippancy.

When Machines Take Over the World ...14
Asimov’s Reworking of Science Fiction’s Worst Nightmare
Shreya P. Jindal tweaks conventional notions of sci-fi Armageddon by discussing Asimov’s conception of a different and possibly mutually beneficial robot-human relationship in his I, Robot.

The Gothic in Frankenstein ...17
Venu Bhanot analyses the various dominant literary elements in Mary Shelley’s ever popular Frankenstein to place it as neither Gothic nor Romantic but Gothic Romantic.

Events ...18

Call for Contributions, Issue Three, Volume Four: Courtesans ...20

Pg 3

The ‘Forward Wits’ of Doctor Faustus

It seems almost superfluous to state that Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is riddled with perplexing ambiguities. However, the convention is to acknowledge the success of Marlowe’s attempt at baffling his audience. The question, though, is, what was Marlowe’s aim behind writing such an ambivalent play? What exactly did he mean to convey through it?

Marlowe’s eccentric characters owe completely to his enigmatic life – short as it was. He was embroiled in several controversies during his lifetime and not just his life but also his death is a mystery to all. He was apparently killed in a bar-room brawl and today, it is ‘assumed’, merely assumed, that he was murdered – for political reasons, as a result of his dealings with the Elizabethan government.

During Marlowe’s time, England under Elizabeth largely persecuted...

Pg 7

Misery and Mistress: The Politics of Fantasy in Fairy Tales

“They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die.
I’ll wink and couch; no man their works must eye.”
-William Shakespeare, in The Merry Wives of Windsor

Childhood is incomplete without the delicious nectar of fantasy, stories, and fairy tales. Childhood is the stage when the boundaries between fantasy and reality, truth and illusion become blurred. And thanks to Walt Disney, the fairy tale characters have become more magnificent through the magic of animation. Generally, fairy tales are seen as a vital source of entertainment, they cater to the child’s imagination and allow him or her to enter a fantastic world of rich palaces, evil monsters and a whole lot of heroic adventures. But the question one might want to raise- are these stories as innocent as the children themselves? In other words, they may look simple on the surface, but analyzed critically, we find that they are indeed skilfully crafted and strongly rooted in gender stereotypes and social prejudices. Under the guise of fantasy, they strongly reinforce...

Pg 10

Conflict and Dissent: Editorial Cartoons and the Politics of Afghanistan

In the aftermath of September 11, Afghanistan was dug out of the world’s collective forgetful consciousness and splashed across international media to highlight the destructive fundamentalism of its leaders and redress the excesses of civil and human rights violations in the region. The American War on Terror has sought legitimation by focussing on the need to “restore” democracy in what it deems are the world’s terror hubs and conflict-ridden areas. This paper looks at two perspectives of the internal conflict and external war which have plagued Afghanistan particularly during the Taliban regime (1996–2001) and culminated in the Allied strikes beginning November 2001. Kabul-based cartoonist Atiq Shahid and Pulitzer-winner American artist Ann Telnaes both offer in single panel view a comprehensive representation of the modern history of Afghanistan which is one of...

Pg 14

When Machines Take Over the World
Asimov’s Reworking of Science Fiction’s Worst Nightmare

In this paper, I will examine Isaac Asimov’s science fiction short story collection I, Robot (1950). I will argue that Asimov has a unique take on the threat of man-made scientific creations escaping human control and destroying the world, a cliché in science fiction since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). I will demonstrate that Asimov takes the stance that the taking over of mankind by robots would actually be a positive outcome for humanity because they are superior to human beings in physical, mental, and moral terms...

Pg 17

The Gothic in Frankenstein
Tortuous, fragmented narratives relating mysterious incidents, horrible images and life-threatening pursuits predominate in the eighteenth century gothic literature. Spectres, monsters, demons, corpses, skeletons, evil aristocrats, monks and nuns, fainting heroines and bandits populate Gothic landscapes as suggestive figures of imagined and realistic threats. This list grew, in the nineteenth century, with the addition of scientists, fathers, husbands, madmen, criminals and the monstrous double signifying duplicity and evil nature. Gothic landscapes are desolate, alienating and full of menace. In the eighteenth century they were wild and mountainous locations...