Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Maureen O'Connor
Ireland-India-Asia: Entangled Histories and Cultural Processesí (invited presentation)
Irish Women Writing the Indian Woman and Nation: Sydney Owenson and Margaret Cousinsí
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Invited Lectures (Conference)
Optional Fields
Sydney Owenson (who would become Lady Morgan), born, according to legend, on the Irish Sea late in the eighteenth century (the date is in dispute, but sometime in the 1770s), was a popular novelist and travel writer, proto-feminist, champion of Catholic Emancipation, and Irish nationalist. Best known for The Wild Irish Girl, a novel replete with metaphor and imagery drawn from the East, in 1811 she published a novel set in India, The Missionary: An Indian Tale, arguably the text which inspired the nineteenth-century literary and cultural phenomenon of Irish Orientalism. In the novel, the Hindu priestess Luxima converts the Jesuit missionary, Hilarion, to her Vendantic vision of mystical love. At the same time, Owenson represents not only Western colonialism and Christianity but also Hinduism and all masculinist imperatives of competition, structures of caste and status across cultures as perpetrators of violent destruction. Late in the nineteenth century and into the early decades of the twentieth century, another Irish woman, Margaret Cousins, like Owenson an activist for womenís rights and religious tolerance, travelled to the East (something Owenson never did), settling in India where she worked for the rights of native girls and women and participated in Ghandiís struggle for Indian independence. She considered the causes of individual and national self-determination to be inextricably linked, whether in an Irish or an Indian context. Like Owenson, Cousins saw in Eastern spiritual praxis potential for promoting liberatory causes in the West and internationally. This paper will discuss the feminist and nationalist implications of the two Irish womenís representations of Eastern women.