This book foregrounds the subjectivity of ‘acting women’ amidst violent debates on femininity and education, livelihood and labour, sexuality and marriage. It looks at the emergence of the stage actress as an artist and an ideological construct at critical phases of performance practice in British India. The focus here is on Calcutta, considered the ‘second city of the Empire’ and a nodal point in global trade circuits.
Each chapter offers new ways of conceptualising the actress as a professional, a colonial subject, simultaneously the other and the model of the ‘new woman’. An underlying motif is the playing out of the idea of spiritual salvation, redemption and modernity. Analysing the dynamics behind stagecraft and spectacle, the study highlights the politics of demarcation and exclusion of social roles. It presents rich archival work from diverse sources, many translated for the first time.
This book makes a distinctive contribution in intertwining performance studies with literary history and art practices within a cross-cultural framework. Interdisciplinary and innovative, it will appeal to scholars and researchers in South Asian theatre and performance studies, history and gender studies.
Table of Contents
List of Figures. Preface. Acknowledgements. Note on Transliteration and Translation. Introduction 1. Genealogies: or, what’s in a name? 2. Benediction in performance: playing the saint and meeting the saint: 1880s–1990s 3. Counter Seductions: and metropolitan dysfunction 4. The ‘Female’ Confessional Voice: actress-stories as captivating copy 5. ‘A Strange Meeting’ at the Star Theatre, 1912: mourning on stage. Postscript. Appendix. Select Bibliography. Index
Rimli Bhattacharya currently teaches at the Department of English, University of Delhi, India. She has trained in Comparative Literature at Jadavpur and Brown Universities and has been Visiting Professor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, the University of Pennsylvania and the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. She has collaborated with artists and filmmakers on multimedia projects and has published on critical areas in gender and performance, children’s literature and primary education. Her corpus of classic translations from Bangla into English includes novels by Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore. She is the author of the key text Binodini Dasi: ‘My Story’ and ‘My Life as an Actress’ (1998) and The Dancing Poet: Rabindranath Tagore and Choreographies of Participation (forthcoming).