Sultana's Dream: And Selections from The Secluded Ones

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Sultana’s Dream, first published in 1905 in a Madras English newspaper, is a witty feminist utopia—a tale of reverse purdah that posits a world in which men are confined indoors and women have taken over the public sphere, ending a war nonviolently and restoring health and beauty to the world.

"The ...

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Sultana's Dream: And Selections from The Secluded Ones

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Sultana’s Dream, first published in 1905 in a Madras English newspaper, is a witty feminist utopia—a tale of reverse purdah that posits a world in which men are confined indoors and women have taken over the public sphere, ending a war nonviolently and restoring health and beauty to the world.

"The Secluded Ones" is a selection of short sketches, first published in Bengali newspapers, illuminating the cruel and comic realities of life in purdah.

Suggested for course use in:
Indian Literature
South Asian Studies
Utopian Fiction
Women’s Studies

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880 - 1932) was a Bengali Muslim writer and feminist activist who founded the first Muslim girls’ school in Calcutta in 1911.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hossain, born in north India (now Bangladesh) in 1880, was raised under the constraints of purdah, the Indian tradition that physically and spiritually isolates women, and devoted her life to writing about female oppression under purdah and to attempting to break through the stifling seclusion. The ironic ``Sultana's Dream,'' first published in 1905, is a short story that reverses purdah: the narrator dreams she travels to the utopian Ladyland, a peaceful and technologically advanced state ruled by women, where men are docile, quarantined servants trained to cook and clean. ``The Secluded Ones,'' published in 1928, is a collection of nonfiction reports on the incredible behavior that purdah demands from both women and men. Hossain tells, for example, of the matron who fell onto railway tracks but could not be rescued because of taboos against contact between the sexes. This short book is a window openedtoo brieflyonto a world whose exoticism is overshadowed only by its oppressiveness. Particularly chilling is Hossain's work's relevance to our timesas pointed out in the afterwordwhen purdah and its variants are being revived in different social and religious movements. (August)
Library Journal
Ten years before Charlotte P. Gilman published her feminist utopia, Herland (1915), ``Sultana's Dream'' appeared in an India-based English periodical. It is a clever and appealing story of reversed purdah (seclusion of women) in Ladyland, where women overpower men through brains rather than brawn. Accompanying this story are selections from The Secluded Ones (1928), a factual account of extreme cases of purdah. Commentaries by scholars put the works of the little-known Hossain in a global and historical context. An interesting and informative work for Asian studies and women's studies collections. Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780935312836
  • Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Series: A Feminist Press Sourcebook Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 104
  • Sales rank: 724,444
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reclaiming An Early Feminist Writer

    Roushan Jahan presents some of the writings of Bengalese Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain along with an essay of Hossain's life and chronology. This is an excellent introduction to Hossain, purdah (women's seclusion), and the culture surrounding Hossain. Hanna Papanek closes with an insightful essay on the implications of Hossain's work for current times. Highly recommended for those interested in feminist writings (Sultana's Dream antedates dates Gilman's Herland , 1915.)as well as purdah and cultural anthropology. A very thoughtful treatment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2001

    Dreaming Sultana

    I haven't gone through the English translation of the title, but it's a feeling of goodness that surrounds me when I see people at the end of the century are becoming interested about Begum Rokeya (identified here as Hossain) and her works. It is really amusing to see her life and works in a different perspective from a distance, but those who are interesetd in understanding this lady, I guess, need some more information as well as insight. As a layman, I can just mention one. It is about her name. The name mentioned in the reviews and other literature prove that those who are trying to understand her are more interested to give their own meaning and format rather than get closer to those of her's. The full name of the woman who wrote this wonderful piece goes like this in her own country Banglades: Begum Rokeya Shakhawat Hossain. Begum is a prefix of distinction for women in predominantly muslim Bangladesh, Rokeya is the main part of her name, and Shakhawat Hossain is her husband's name, addition of which is a demonstration of patriarchy. It is not quite ok to identify her as Hossain, it is just a part of her name which has some historical and social background, but does not represent her real name. Anyone trying to understand the works of this lady needs to realize this fact and mention her accordingly. The tendency to identify Asian figues according to western pattern of name is yet another demonstration of inability of western scholars to understand fully the people of other cultures. the same can be said about the critics and scholars from other backgrounds. We all pretend to have clear vision of the issues and events we focus on, but cannot grasp the fact that we are still far from that, even in the age of so-called post-modernism and bla bla bla. Like Begum Rokeya's, dreams of many sultanas around the globe deserve our attention and it is as betetr as soon we can do that.

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