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Abstract

Building on the foundational theories of Judith Butler and Edwin Schur, this paper scrutinises the traditional myth of the Hindu epic the Ramayana and argues: (1) how socially constructed gender performance is naturalised by cultural ideology and (2) how infringement of this performance leads to labelling individuals as deviant. Women who transgress these cultural ideologies are defined as deviant and subjected to various punishments, from public humiliation to genital mutilation. Through an exploration of the novelist Kavita Kané’s mythology inspired novel Lanka’s Princess (2017), this paper focuses on the mythical figure known as Surpankha whose character embodies masculine attributes and vilified qualities that contradict the archetypal image of women in India, as prescribed by Hindu scriptures. This paper highlights the consequences of resistance and deviance when it comes to gender performance and examines mutilation from a feminist point of view. We also simultaneously remove Surpankha from her archetypal villainous image to the image of a ‘wronged’ woman. Hence, this study creates a lens for examining femininity, deviance, and ancient gender roles, particularly, when it comes to the performance of gender and the social construction of deviance. In doing so, this paper deconstructs the male-dominated structure of deviance and constructs a new understanding of the Ramayana.

Note on the Author

Meenakshi is a Ph.D. research scholar at IIT Roorkee. Meenakshi is working on Kavita Kane's novels from a revisionist point of view. The selected novels focus on marginal women characters like Surpankha, Urmila, Menaka, and Satyavati. In this way, the study opens an important space for elaborating the theory of feminism within the Hindu cultural context.

Prof. Nagendra Kumar is a Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Roorkee. He earned his PhD in 1998 in the fiction of Bharati Mukherjee which is one of the earliest full length critical studies available on Bharati Mukherjee. He has published nearly one hundred research papers in reputed national and international journals, conference proceedings, and edited volumes.

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