Intertextual, literary and intercultural influences in the poetry of Perveen Shakir

  • Katherine Peters

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores the Urdu poetry of Perveen Shakir, a Pakistani, third-world,Muslim, female poet, in her socio-cultural, religious and political context. The entire four collections written between 1977 and 1990 are analysed in order to depict the stages of her life: girl, woman, mother and poet. The collections were written during extreme political pressure of martial law, dictatorship and the Islamisation of General Zia’s regime (1977-1988). The thesis argues that Shakir, an educated self-aware Pakistani Muslim woman, is formulating new feminist ideas and concepts of individual freedom through her unconventional love poetry; in that way crossing the limits of her traditional ‘feminine’ nisvani demands, whilst she is also struggling under the extreme cultural, political and religious pressure of a Muslim society which conflicts with her liberal ‘feminist’ thinking. Shakir is constantly shifting between two positions: a traditional ‘feminine’ nisvani and a‘feminist’ position. Influenced by her Eastern culture she clings to the traditional identity,sometimes due to her own personal choice, and sometimes under her cultural pressure,unwilling to alienate her traditional self which understands that a husband is a symbol of respect and security for a Pakistani woman. Influenced by western culture she reveals her liberal feminist voice openly writing about her sexual needs and also writing about her marginalised position from which she criticises the politics of patriarchy. This intercultural influence in the Urdu poetry of Shakir is reflected through these overlapping and co-existing positions, where she is neither a true feminist poet by western standards (anti-sexist and antipatriarchal) nor a clear traditional ‘feminine’ nisvani. In the end, she compromises in order to survive in her Islamic culture, re-adjusting and rethinking her liberal feminist ideas.
    The main concern of the thesis is to explain the complex and multi-layered meanings of the term ‘woman’ in the Pakistani cultural context. The analysis has shown that in Pakistani culture the concept of self or individual freedom for a Pakistani Muslim woman is not a simple question. This study focuses on various stages of Shakir’s biographical journey employing the theoretical framework of dialogism which reveals the development of feminisms, and how they balance in the end.
    No critical study on Shakir from a third-world postcolonial Pakistani perspective,
    analysing her poetry within a theoretical framework, has been written so far, and therefore this study is an invaluable contribution to current scholarly knowledge of the discipline. This study also contributes in another way, as it is the first work in English at this level.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Derby
    SupervisorChristine Berberich (Supervisor)

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