Feminism, Love and Identity in the Novels of Doris Lessing


Authors Press,  India  ISBN 978 81 7273 9188  200pages

My introduction to the work of Doris Lessing was when I had the misfortune at fifteen to pick up a copy of Briefing for a Descent into Hell. I read it at a sitting and, scared the living bejeepers out of me, and gave me more nightmares than one can shake a stick at.

A year or two later I picked up The Grass Is Singing, then The Marriages of Zones Three, Four and Five,  and I was hooked. Here I knew was a marvelous writer. The style was direct, fluid, highly intelligent without any consequent loss of emotional intelligence, and she shied away from none of the big issues. I read everything I could find by her and finally devoured the mind bendingly brilliant The Golden Notebook  at least twice if not three times (I really don’t recall).

So when my friend and colleague Dr Ajit Kumar suggested we co pilot a project on Lessing I was very enthusiastic indeed. Some world class academics on Doris Lessing have contributed papers to the volume, and I have to say the cover design by the Graphic Artists in Author’s  Press is great.  The Authors (I include a biographical sketch of each author at the end of this blog post) have written on a vast panoply of themes and perspectives covered in Lessing’s Novels – sexual violence, racism, cold war politics, family, motherhood, sociological perspectives on colonialism, dynamics of child rearing, philosophy of gender, among others. There is some brilliant work here and the exhausting work of editing taught me an immense amount.

This is a book Doris Lessing herself was interested in seeing a proofed copy of  when she heard of it through the Doris Lessing Society, which greatly excited not only us but all the contributors. Sadly Lessing died on the 17th November 2013 and did not get to see it.

Central to Lessing’s concerns was the notion of woman in the world, in other words feminism in the broadest sense of the term.

The notion of any fundamental feminist theory rests not only on the struggle for female reproductive rights but on the idea of every woman’s legal and moral right to control of her own body. Similarly the notion of any fundamental feminist theory does not extend to female political rights but to the primordial recognition of women as co legislator with their male counterpart in any political and legislative dialogue. By extension the notion of any fundamental feminist theory rests not only on the struggle for equal pay between man and woman, but on the parity of productive potential between the sexes and the elimination of all discrimination on gender grounds, especially on the grounds of the necessity of maternity/paternity leave and childcare time. Finally a notion of any fundamental feminist theory postulates women’s full possession of their minds and bodies and thereby the radical elimination of all forms of sexual oppression, of any culture of rape of women, including rape within marriage.


Doris Lessing’s writing has brought a revolution by her unique and deeply critical female sensitivity to the unfair or highly limited roles of woman and to their restricted representation in society and its literature. The book discusses in detail some of her approaches to discussing these very limitations and her approaches to these limitations. Her focus zeros in on female self definition despite the limitations imposed on them because of patriarchy and related social taboos. She portrays how women have overcome odds and liberated themselves not only from patriarchy, but also from mental, emotional, physical, social and political oppression.

A great writer. I was delighted to work with Ajit in editing it, and really chuffed to contribute and article to it on – The Golden Notebook.


1. Lili Wang is Professor of English in the English Department, Fujian Normal University, China. Her research interest lies in English Literature and has been teaching English for more than 30 years. Her recent publications include A Study of Doris Lessing’s Art and Philosophy (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press (China), 2007); “Lessing’s Paradoxes: ‘A Mind of Winter”(on Mara and Dann). Foreign Literature Studies. Vol.31, No.2, 2009; “Seeking for Traditional Mother’s Memory: A Comparison between Woolf and Lessing”. Foreign Literature, No.1, 2008. She has been a visiting scholar in Cambridge University, Berkeley, University of California, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Hong Kang University.

2. Amy Lee has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Warwick, UK. Her research interests include witchcraft and witchery, the Chinese Diaspora, female self-writing, contemporary fiction and culture, narratives of detection and marginal experiences. Recently she is working on young adult literature. She has published on women’s diasporic writing, life writing, and gender issues in contemporary fictions and film. She has taught professional and creative writing; and is dedicated to promoting creative teaching and learning in the secondary school sector. Currently she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University.

3. Ajit Kumar has done his Ph.D. research work on Doris Lessing’s novels at Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, India. He is a well published scholar of Doris Lessing. He has published many research papers in national and international journals of English studies. He has presented many research papers in national and international conferences and seminars. He has written the Introduction and Textual Notes of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. He is engaged in editing a book on British Women Authors. He was honoured with Best Research Paper Award in World Conference AIAER-2010.

4. Pamela Grieman is the managing editor of the American Indian Culture and Research Journal at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her doctorate from the University of Southern California.

5. Oran Ryan is a writer. He has written novels: The Death of Finn (Seven Towers, 2006), Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger (Seven Towers 2007), and One Inch Punch (Seven Towers, 2012). He has written plays: Don Quixote has Been Promoted (2009, Ranelagh Arts Festival) for the stage and Radio: Preliminary Design For a Universe Circling Spacecraft (KRPN, San Francisco, California 2010) He has lectured on James Joyce, has written and published short stories, poetry and literary critical articles. He is currently working on his next novel titled Hardcastle Dies Laughing.

6. Florica Bodiştean Ph.D is Associate Professor and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Aurel Vlaicu University, Arad, tenured for the following courses: Comparative Literature, Theory of Literature, Stylistics of Poetic Texts and Literature of Children and Adolescents.. Main published studies include: Representations of Femininity in Tolstoy’s Novel War and Peace; Heroic and Erotic in Hemingway’s War Novel; A Vision on Femininity in the Romantic Historical Novel: Walter Scott, Ivanhoe; Tristan and Isolde, or On the Conventions and Liberties of Medieval Eros; Patterns of Femininity in the Heroic Epic. Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Renaissance Woman vs. the Woman of the Middle Ages in Cervantes’s Don Quixote. She has published books: Marin Preda or About the Complexes of Creation (doctoral thesis, 2002), A Theory of Literature (2005, second edition – 2008), Poetics of Literary Genres (2006, second edition – 2009), Literature for Children and Adolescents Beyond „Story” (2007), Heroic and Erotic. Essay on Feminine Representations in the Heroic Epic (2013). She is the member of the Romanian Writer’s Union, editor-in-chief of “Journal of Humanistic and Social Studies”.

7. Ambalika Biswas is Associate Lecturer of English at Royal Thimphu College an international college under Royal University of Bhutan, is educated at Rashtraguru Surendranath College with Bachelors and Post Graduate degree in English from University of Calcutta. She has a specialization in Indian Literature, T.S Eliot and Gender and Literature. Ms. Biswas has done her Bachelors in Education from Loreto College, University of Calcutta. Prior to teaching at Royal Thimphu College she used to teach as a part time lecturer at P.N Das College, Palta (West Bengal State University).

8. Feruza Shermatova is a current Fulbright visiting scholar at University of Washington, Seattle, WA, who researches how gender is expressed in Kyrgyz language. She got her Ph.D. in comparative English-Kyrgyz linguistics namely, the issues of translation of syntactical stylistic devices from English into Kyrgyz in 2011. Her primary research interests focus on stylistic analysis of fiction and linguistic problems of fiction translation.

9. Baliram N. Gaikwad, is a Fulbright Post-Doctoral Fellow at African American Studies, University of Florida, USA. He achieved Doctoral degree in British Literature from India and has authored several research papers on British Literature and Dalit literature. Dr. Gaikwad works as an Assistant Professor and Chair, Dept. of English at Acharya and Marathe College, Mumbai.

10. Chung Chin-Yi has completed doctoral studies at the National University of Singapore. Her research centers on the relationship between deconstruction and phenomenology. She has published in Nebula, Ol3media and the Indian review of World literature in English, Vitalpoetics, Rupkatha, an Interdisciplinary Journal on the Humanities, KRITIKE: An Online Journal of Philosophy, SKASE Literary Journal and Thirty First Bird Review, Linguistic and Literary Broadbased Innovation and Research, and Humanicus: an academic journal of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Philosophy. She has 4 years of teaching experience at NUS, teaching exposure modules and higher level electives. She presented papers on the Beckett centenaries in 2006 in Denmark and Ireland and recently at the Theory Culture and Society 25th anniversary conference.

11. Shahram Kiaei is a faculty member in the Department of English, Qom Branch Islamic Azad University, Qom, Iran

12. Sushumna Kannan is currently Adjunct Faculty at San Diego State University, USA. She has an MA in English (Literary and Cultural Studies) from EFLU, Hyderabad. She has submitted her PhD thesis titled “Akka Mahadevi, a saint, poet and rebel?: A Study in Feminist understandings of Tradition” at Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore and awaits defense. She has attended conferences, national and international, and has presented papers. She received the Regional Fellowship for doctoral work at France for two years. Having worked at several colleges in and around Bangalore.