She Laughs, She Speaks:
Écriture Féminine in Manto’s Story “The Insult”
Keywords:Écriture féminine, phallogocentric, language, laughter
Saadat Hasan Manto in his story, “The Insult,” portrays Saugandhi as a prostitute who is capable of speaking of her choices, yet she speaks in a language designed by a patriarchal system that can be read as “phallogocentric” from Hélène Cixous’s perspective of poststructuralist feminism. Saugandhi’s desire to be loved by a man confines her to the passive, non-speaking position that this “phallogocentric” system has fixed for women in the Lacanian structure of the Symbolic Order. However, the rejection by a customer one night rids her of the desire for patriarchal recognition. She starts speaking in a language new to the phallogocentric system which upsets Madho, who is portrayed by Manto as a speaker of that phallogocentric language. In the last conversation with Madho, Saugandhi laughs hysterically and that threatens Madho with the fear of losing control over her. Manto writes her laughter as her language, which can be analyzed by Cixous’s idea of écriture féminine. With a qualitative approach, this paper examines how Manto, through the portrayal of Saugandhi, writes a deconstructive language that decentralizes the phallogocentric structure in Urdu short fiction and contributes to the écriture féminine in the subculture of Urdu stories even before the phrase was coined.
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