Founder co-editor of Manushi, India's first nationwide feminist magazine, 1978-91
Lecturer in English, Miranda House College for Women, and Reader, Department of English, Delhi University, 1976-1997.
On Gender, Sex and the City:
This book explores the urban, cosmopolitan sensibilities of Urdu poetry written in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Lucknow, which was the center of a flourishing Indo-Islamic culture. Ruth Vanita analyzes Rekhti, a type of Urdu poetry distinguished by a female speaker and a focus on women's lives, and shows how it became a catalyst for the transformation of the love poem.
"The book belongs to my favorite genre, where the translations, excellent as they are, push the reader toward tasting the 'original.'' - Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, series editor (with Hosam Aboul-Ela) of Theory in the WorldOn Love’s Rite:
This absorbing new book…offers a marvelously global perspective characterized by profound historical understanding, impeccable scholarship, and a rare and delightful precision of feeling.
- Terry Castle, Prof, Stanford University
On Gandhi’s Tiger:
Ruth Vanita’s scholarship is staggering. She scours the intellectual landscape, from the Upanishads to writers of our times, from the tale of Oedipus to that of Ashtavakra, from Sappho the tale of lesbian love in the Bengal version of the Padma Purana. …deftly demonstrating how the celebration of diversity has roots in ancient India.
- Kaushik Basu, Prof, Cornell University
On Sappho and the Virgin Mary:
The story of Mary is that she conceived her son immaculately, an autonomous creation without the intervention of a human male. This Marian ideal of feminine independence, suggests Ruth Vanita in her brilliant book, is one basis for the vast number of independent, unmarried female characters in British fiction. The poetry of Sappho, the direct antecedent of the confessional Romantic lyric, is the other. ... This well-researched, erudite survey shows how present lesbian dynamics have been throughout English literary history.
Ruth Vanita's Sappho & the Virgin Mary is an eloquent refutation of the conventional theoretical association of lesbianism with cultural invisibility. ...Vanita demonstrates that love between women has long constituted an enabling, enriching and ubiquitous component of the literary imagination for female and male authors alike. ... Intrepid, sophisticated, and worldly."
- Corinne Blackmer
On Same-Sex Love in India:
This path-breaking volume presents the English-reading public with an imposing array of texts relating to an important but little-studied aspect of Indian life and literature.
- Sumit Guha, Professor, Brown University
This enchanting collection is a tribute to an ancient civilization which has always cherished love that defies conventional ideas of sanity and normality.
- Ashis Nandy
An encyclopedic collection … Vanita and Kidwai’s essays are works of outstanding scholarship.
- Lillian Faderman
Through research and interpretation of ancient, medieval and modern literary texts, traditions and popular culture, she brings to light texts and traditions that construct the picture of a highly exploratory and non-judgmental sexual culture which is South Asia. One that both accepted and celebrated same sex love and intimate friendships.