SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

‘Aangan’ or the ‘Inner Courtyard’ and ‘Afshan’ – two novels by women writers

Neelam Hussain (SSAI, SOAS)

Date: 30 September 2020Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 30 September 2020Time: 4:30 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar

Festival of Ideas Satellite Event


This session will explore the commonalities and differences between two novels -  ‘Aangan’ or ‘Inner Courtyard’ by Khadija Mastur and ‘Afshan’ by A.R. Khatoon. Mastur’s, work was shaped by the Progressive Writers Movement and her encounter with left wing intellectuals and writers in pre-Independence Bombay and later, in Pakistan where she had social and familial connections with left wing writers many of whom were associated with the left wing Progressive Papers Limited that were ‘taken over’ by the government under Ayub Khan’s martial law rule. A.R Khatoon, on the other hand ‘had never been to school; knew only her own language i.e. Urdu and in her own words, was unfamiliar with novels and stories in other languages’. Her emotional and cultural roots lie in the ‘inner court yard’ of middleclass colonial Delhi from which she was severed by the partition of India in 1947 and who carried with her the nostalgia for a lost world inflected with the socially upward aspirations and mores of a class that emerged under the British Raj and as part of a migrant population, made a home for itself in post-independence Pakistan.

Framed by the freedom movement and the partition of India into the independent states of Pakistan and India, the storylines of the two novels are structured around the lives and loves of female protagonists with a shared history and geographical location. However, the trajectories they follow are strangers to each other.  ‘Aangan’ is a realist novel in which people’s lives are impacted by historical events, while ‘Afshan’ falls in the category of popular women’s romance in which historical events form a passive backdrop. This session will explore these differences and their wider literary and political implications. My focus will be on the politics of silence and the transgressions and capitulations of the spoken word; on the ways language is deployed and form shaped so that the same storyline and historical context creates different fictive worlds and carry different meanings and messages.


Prof. Neelam Hussain read BA Hons in English Literature from Kinnaird College Lahore and for the MA degree at Government College Lahore followed by an MA from Leeds UK and post-graduate research at Sussex. Neelam then joined Kinnaird College as a lecturer in 1974 and, apart from the break for further study in the UK, was there as English faculty till 1995. Neelam left Kinnaird to work at Simorgh Women’s Resource and Publication Centre in 1995 and have been there since then. Simorgh is a secular, feminist not for profit organisation and apart from overall oversight as Executive Coordinator, my work entails direct involvement in both academic and field research including the editing and publication of a sporadically produced socio-legal journal ‘Bayan’ and other publications;. Neelam's other work has included the production and publication of an annotated selection of Punjabi folktales documented by British folklorists during the Raj and translation from Urdu to English of two novels: ‘Inner Courtyard’ by Khadija Mastur and ‘All Passion Spent’ by Zaheda Hina.

Click here to register for the event. The link to the webinar will be emailed to the registered attendee closer to the event date. 

Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute

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