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The Agent in the Margin

Nayantara Sahgal’s Gandhian Fiction

By Clara A.B. Joseph
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
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Hardcover : 9781554580439, 247 pages, October 2008
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554582815, 247 pages, October 2008

Table of contents

Table of Contents for The Agent in the Margin: Nayantara Sahgal's Gandhian Fiction by Clara A.B. Joseph
Introduction: Agency in the Margins: Althusser, Gandhi, Sahgal
Chapter One: The Interpellated “I”: Gandhian Ideology and the Autobiographical Genre
Chapter Two: The Thinking Subject: Virginity and Swaraj
Chapter Three: The Special Place of Literature: Mahasati, Satyagrahi
Chapter Four: Overdetermination and Truth
Chapter Five: The Resisting Subject: Dignity of Lesser Breeds
Conclusion: Representing the Human Person
Works Cited


The Agent in the Margin: Nayantara Sahgal’s Gandhian Fiction is a comprehensive study of the literary works of Nayantara Sahgal, daughter of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit—the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly—and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. Clara A.B. Joseph introduces Mahatma Gandhi’s political and philosophical to literary analysis and utilizes non-structuralist aspects of Louis Althusser’s theories of ideology to trace how characters marginalized by gender, class, race, and language in Sahgal’s work assume agency, challenging poststructuralist theories of cultural and ideological determinism. She considers how gender complicates autobiography and how the roles of daughter, virgin, wife, widow, and alien serve (often ironically) to highlight human dignity.


As I read Clara Joseph's The Agent in the Margin: Nayantara Sahgal's Gandhian Fiction, I was brought back to [my] first meeting with Sahgal and our wide-ranging conversation about her life, Indian politics, and literature. Since that time, I have read a great deal of scholarly commentary on Sahgal's writing, and Joseph's book stands out as the most serious and sustained examination of the literary, cultural, and political significance of Sahgal's work to date.... It is [a] careful reading of Sahgals' work in dialogue with the influence of Gandhi's writing and Indian culture and history that is perhaps the most original and insightful aspect of Joseph's book.... This is an essential book for any scholar interested in making sense of this important literary figure in contemporary Indian literature.

- Jill Didur, University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 80, number 2, Summer 2011, 2012 December