This work examines literature's inter-textuality with history and the discursive construction of language, sexuality and geopolitical space. It represents the first effort to elucidate the conventional essentialist notions regarding the archive of Manipravalam, a hybrid language of Malayalam and Sanskrit, which was the dominant mode of literary production in Kerala from twelfth to fifteenth century A.D. The introductory chapter, 'Textualizing the History of Kerala', has two sections - 'Into Theory' and 'Text as History'. The former attempts a comprehensive analysis of the cardinal tenets of New Historicism while the latter is an exposition of the narratological structures of Manipravalam. Different types of texts representing a wide range of knowledge - from dance, architecture and medicine to commerce and prostitution - are juxtaposed to problematize historicity which is unsteadily poised on textuality. Chapter 2, 'The Language', focuses on how discourse constructs signifying practices including the verbal. New Historicism contests the notion of history as context, and views it as a co-text. The positing of any co-text radically alters historicity.
Lyotard's theory of 'language games' and the Foucauldian notion of 'games of truth' are brought to bear on demonstrating how Manipravalam became a grand narrative subsuming all deviance and variance. This illustrates the fact that all hierarchies can be traced to linguistic stratification. The next chapter, 'The Lass', is on the strategies of constructing sex and the sexed body. There is no objective truth about the body; there is only a body of knowledges on the body. Lesbian sculptures belonging to the episteme are used as co-texts here. The Lacanian concept of 'lack', which compels the woman to seek surrogate objects for 'full-fill-ment', is located as the root of desire. Ideological interpolation ensures female collusion with the phallogocentric structure. Sexuality and Textuality are determined by 'Jouissance'. 'The Land', the title of the fourth chapter, denotes all spatial forms. Discourse constructs space to police it. An imposed homogeneity of representations is the tactics behind spatial objectification. In Manipravalam, which was a cartographic and demographic occupation, space subsumes 'place' and imposes a monolithic notion of culture.
Like Foucault's 'Panopticon', every subject within this space is kept under surveillance. Control over bodies covertly leads to control over the geopolitical terrain. The last chapter, 'Historizing Manipravalam', has two sections. The first section, 'History as Text', shows how historiography is a production of texts and the claim to objectivity and authority a fiction. Texts lead to more texts, making historicity as unstable as textuality. The 'pan-textualism' of history engenders the possibility for alternative readings. The second section, 'Out of Theory', is such an attempt. The endless deferral strategies inherent in all discursive formations unleash the scope for 're-membering' the body, its language and the space it occupies. The closure of the problematics closes only the univocal ideas of culture.