The Doctor and Mrs. A.Ethics and Counter-Ethics in an Indian Dream Analysis

The Doctor and Mrs. A.Ethics and Counter-Ethics in an Indian Dream Analysis

Sarah Pinto

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780823286676

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

In the years leading up to India’s independence, a young Punjabi woman known to us only as Mrs. A., ill at ease in her marriage and eager for personal and national freedom, sat down with psychiatrist Dev Satya Nand for an experiment in his new and “Oriental” method of dream analysis. Her analysis, which appeared in a case self-published by Satya Nand, included a surge of emotion and reflections on sexuality, gender, marriage, ambition, trauma, and art. She turned to female figures from Hindu myth to reimagine her social world and its ethical arrangements. The stories of Draupadi and Shakuntala, from the Mahabharata, and Ahalya, from the Ramayana, helped her envision a future beyond marriage, colonial rule, and gendered constraints. This book is an exploration of Mrs. A.’s case, its window onto gender and sexuality in late colonial Indian society, and the ways her case put ethics in motion, creating alternatives to ideals of belonging, recognition, and consciousness. It finds in Mrs. A.’s musings repertoires for the creative transformation of ethical ideals and explores the possibilities of thinking with a concept of “counter-ethics” and from a position that sees ethics as plural in both content and form. Following Mrs. A. in pursuing mythic narratives and turning in its conclusion to art as a guide for theorizing, this book asks what perspectives on gender, power, meaning, and imagination are possible from the position of the counter-ethic and its orientation toward movement and change.