Synopses & Reviews
With an eye for the sensual bloom of young schoolgirls, and the torrid style of the romantic novels of her day, Herculine Barbin tells the story of her life as a hermaphrodite. Herculine was designated female at birth. A pious girl in a Catholic orphanage, a bewildered adolescent enchanted by the ripening bodies of her classmates, a passionate lover of another schoolmistress, she is suddenly reclassified as a man. Alone and desolate, he commits suicide at the age of thirty in a miserable attic in Paris.
Here, in an erotic diary, is one lost voice from our sexual past. Provocative, articulate, eerily prescient as she imagines her corpse under the probing instruments of scientists, Herculine brings a disturbing perspective to our own notions of sexuality. Michel Foucault, who discovered these memoirs in the archives of the French Department of Public Hygiene, presents them with the graphic medical descriptions of Herculine's body before and after her death. In a striking contrast, a painfully confused young person and the doctors who examine her try to sort out the nature of masculine and feminine at the dawn of the age of modern sexuality.
“Tanika Sarkar’s dissection of the text—the autobiography of an upper-caste East Bengali widow from a family of landlords, who teaches herself to read and write in secrecy as it’s a taboo to do so—yields a cracking yarn of social history.”
The first full-length autobiography in Bengali, Amar Jiban
) was written in the early nineteenth century by an upper-caste rural housewife named Rashundari Debi. Published in 1868 when she was 88 years old, the book is a fascinating snapshot of life for women in the nineteenth century. Debi, who gave birth to eleven children—her first was born when she was 18-years-old, the last when she was forty-one—ruminates on her very individual understanding of bhakti
as well as the new times that were unfolding around her.
Offering a translation of major sections of this remarkable autobiography, Words to Win is a portrait of a woman who wants to compose a life of her own, wishes to present it in the public sphere, and eventually accomplishes just that. The words, in the end, win out. First published in 1999, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in nineteenth-century Indian history. The classic text is reissued here in a new paperback format.
About the Author
One of the leading intellectuals of the twentieth century and the most prominent thinker in post-war France, Foucault's work influenced disciplines as diverse as history, sociology, philosophy, sociology and literary criticism.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements 1. Introduction 2. Her Times, Her Places 3. The Changing World of Religion 4. Strishiksha, or Education for Women 5. Women's Writings Amar Jiban (My Life) 6. On Re-reading the Text