A. Madhaviah: A Biography
This text is includes a biography of the great 19th century Tamil social reformer, humanist and scholar A. Madhaviah (1872-1925), followed by a translation of his novel Muthumeenakshi: the autobiography of a Brahmin Girl (1903). Madhaviah focused on the harsh conditions of female existence amongst the upper caste although he was not a pessimist. He supported widow remarriage and argued that the salvation of women and society lay in education. Madhaviah drew moral and literary validation for his ideas from classical Sangam Tamil texts but was also influenced by bourgeois notions of sexual restraint and female domesticity. Muthumeenakshi is a searing, realistic commentary on marital politics, sexuality, female illiteracy and patriarchy in 19th century south India. Madhaviah uses the autobiographical voice of a motherless Brahmin girl to make a plea for the reform of social customs that inhibited the sexual and educational lives of upper caste women.
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