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Sanskrit Criticism
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From the Jacket

This innovative study develops a unified theory of literature by critically evaluating the categories of Sanskrit poetics from a single theoretical standpoint-that of rasa, the theory that holds that poetry is essentially emotive discourse. Literature, Chari-argues, is defined not by the use of any formal linguistic devices, but rather by the emotive meaning embodied in the work. The presentation of emotions is therefore the proper aim and the common denominator of all literary works. From this standpoint, poetic statements can be shown to possess a truth value of their own and to convey valid knowledge.

Unlike previous studies addressed primarily to Indologists, Sanskrit Criticism presents traditional thought in a comparative light and, so far as possible, in a modern idiom. Indian concepts of meaning, interpretation, and truth are assimilated into contemporary aesthetic debates in the West in such a way as to make them part of a universal critical discourse. Central to Chari’s position is the claim that the validity of these concepts is not limited to Indian literature alone but extends to other literatures as well. Accordingly, most of the literary examples cited are taken from English.

Sanskrit Criticism makes a fresh contribution to contemporary criticism and will be stimulating reading not only for comparatists but for anyone interested in the theory of literature.

V.K. Chari, professor of English at Carleton University in Ottawa, received his degrees in Sanskrit and English from Banaras Hindu University. He has taught English and American literature at universities in India, the U.S., and Canada, and is the author of Whitman in the Light of Vedantic Mysticism.

Introduction

In this book, I address myself to a twofold task: to present brief profiles of the major concepts of criticism in Sanskrit, together with a critique of them, and also, wherever possible, to review the Sanskrit theories in a comparative light to see how they stand up against critical thinking in the West, especially of our own age. When I set out to write this book, I felt that there was no need for another book of expositions or for a history of concepts, along traditional lines, after the many scholarly studies by Indian as well as Western Sanskritists. What cried out to be done, I felt, was to attempt a reevaluation of the Indian theories in the terms provided by the ancient systems themselves. It also seemed to me that most previous discussions (barring Edwin Gerow’s Glossary of Indian Figures of Speech, which argues for a figurative aesthetic) were inconclusive in their assessment of the relative merits of the various concepts and schools of criticism; they seldom promised anything like a consistent general theory of literature.’ Such a theory, if one were to be worked out, had, however, to come out of the very materials of traditional thought—it was not to be imposed from the outside. This consideration led me to look for a theoretical standpoint in the doctrine of rasa (roughly translated as “emotive aesthetics”)—a standpoint from which I could evaluate all other theories and concepts and for which I could also find sufficient support in the texts and commentaries. Rasa is the most important concept in Indian aesthetics and may be seen as a. pervasive influence in the theories of painting, sculpture, and dance in addition to poetry and dramaturgy.

Thus, of the four major concepts that dominated the critical scene in ancient India—namely, figuration (alamkara,or poetry as figurative or deviant speech), style (riti, poetry as structured expression), suggestion (dhvani, poetry as indirect expression), and rasa (poetry as emotive expression)—I take my stand on the rasa theory and criticize the other theories in that light. I argue that poetry is better defined by its evocatory aim than by any formal peculiarities or by any special semantics of its own. This, however, is not entirely my own conclusion but, as I show, what is stated explicitly or implicitly by the critics themselves. My criticisms, too, rest on a detailed examination of the relevant critical and philosophical texts.

Thus, while for the most part I derive my authority from what the Sanskrit critics themselves have to say, I also add something to traditional discussions. I present new arguments in support of or against the theories in question. Where the critics or their commentators seem undecided about the validity of a given theory or overly accommodating in treating rival theories, I force the issues to their logical conclusions and try to demonstrate their strengths or weaknesses. For instance, a sort of dubiety seems to characterize traditional discussions of the theory of poetic suggestion (dhvani). But I take a hard look at this theory and question its claim that poetry is necessarily a “suggestive” use of language. I further argue that, in the final analysis, even according to the protagonists of dhvani, rasa rather than dhvani is the ultimate criterion of literariness. I defend the view of the opponents of the theory that suggestion is at best an aspect of poetic discourse, not what defines its nature.

In presenting a theory of style as ornamentation of meaning, I base my argument on what the Dhvani critics themselves state explicitly about the language of poetry as well as on some implications contained in their comments, although I reject their general position on the status of suggestion. I also use the traditional distinction between poetic form as ornament and poetic meaning as the ornamented and argue the nonessential, that is, nondefining, nature of the former. I reach the conclusion that literature is not, in the ultimate analysis, a type of language use but a type of meaning—emotive meaning, specifically. Some literary examples can be shown to exhibit no marked stylistic features, to be stylistically neutral. In this connection, I point out that one of the most valuable contributions of the rasa theory to literary criticism is its emphasis on the context of meaning being the determinant of style. The rasa theory does not of course deny the functionality of style or of figures. Formal features do serve an evocative function when there is a context for them. But meaning is what gives form its reason for being.

Some people may doubt the universal applicability of rasa as a principle of criticism. Arguing from the standpoint of the figurationists (the Alamkãra school), Gerow has expressed the view that, while rasa (the emotive element) is important for drama and its performance, it is certainly not essential for poetry as a verbal art. He writes, “The best that can be said of rasa in the context of verbal or poetic expression is that it is an aspect or element thereof.” Gerow points out that, in terms of its historical evolution, the rasa theory was first conceived by Bharata in the context of the theater and that it was only later, when the theatrical art ceased to be a living force and lyrical (strophic) poetry took its place, that the application of rasa was extended to all poetry. This may very well have been the case, but what is significant for aesthetics is that rasa was made into such a general principle and its application demonstrated by Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta. Gerow makes much of the generic distinction between drama and poetry. But, as Abhinavagupta asserts, poetry too is essentially drama, a verbal enactment of the emotions. Bharata too, it must be remembered, speaks of rasa in connection with the dramatic text (kavya) as also in connection with the nonverbal representation in the theater. There is no “qualitative difference” between drama and theatrical representation, only a “quantitative difference of emotion.” This study will show that rasa is all pervasive and cuts across generic boundaries. It must be present, as a shaping principle, in all writing worth the name literature, be it a haiku, an epic, a novel, or a drama.

This is not of course to claim that, as a theoretical concept and principle of definition, rasa exhausts, or renders unnecessary, all other critical considerations—considerations of structure, style, generic mode, imagery, and so forth. This is only to say that such considerations become significant only insofar as they are guided by the principle of rasa. A general theory of poetry, it should be realized, can do no more than provide the guidelines for the practical business of criticism. A book dealing with literary theory must naturally consider general problems of meaning, especially given the assumption of the Sanskrit critics that the semantics of literature must derive its sanction from the semantics of ordinary language, however different literary language may sometimes appear to be. A large part of this study is therefore taken up by the problems of general semantics—language, meaning, and interpretation (discussed in chaps. , 6, and 8)—for which I have drawn heavily on the theories of meaning formulated by the ancient philosophical schools, primarily the mimamsa school of thought. Interpretation is a central issue, not only in general semantics and philosophical analysis, but in aesthetic criticism as well (see Hirsch, Beardsley, and Sparshott, among others). Therefore, in chapter 8, I deal with this problem, outlining in some detail the mimamsa rules of interpretation and also showing the application of some of them to literary examples.

Literary criticism, in the Sanskrit tradition, has been understood to be a sastra—by which is meant any systematic, well-formulated body of knowledge. A “sastraic” exposition is supposed to involve three different kinds of inquiry: (i) inquiry into the nature of substances or the categories of knowledge (paddrtha-mimamsa); (ii) inquiry into the nature of language (sabda-mimamsa), since language is the invariable medium in which knowledge is formulated; and (iii) inquiry into the validity of critical statements (pramana-mimamsa). Of these, the first and the third traditionally came under the purview of logic or nyaya, which is called pramana-sastra, whereas the second, language, came under grammar (vyakarana), which dealt with words (pada-sastra). Purva-mimamsa stressed the sentence aspect of language and was known as vakya-sastra. As an exegetical science, mimamsa was concerned with the interpretation of the comprehensive meanings of the Vedic texts. As a scientific inquiry, literary criticism in Sanskrit borrowed its modes of procedure, its logic, and its conceptual language from these formalistic disciplines. Logic, grammar, and mimamsa, rather than such metaphysical systems as Vedanta, Samkhya, and Yoga, set the pattern for critical discussions in Sanskrit.

An important feature of this study is that the expositions of the various critical theories are set in their proper context of philosophical ideas. For dealing with any kind of text, scriptural or literary, we need to have a set of logical, semantic, and epistemological concepts. The Sanskrit critics take it as axiomatic that the problems of literary meaning are not a special class of problems but those that are common to all philosophical analysis. They assume that an understanding of the basic philosophical problems is a necessary prerequisite for the understanding of critical questions and a basis for a theory of poetics. Most manuals of poetics in Sanskrit, therefore, contain sections on theories of meaning and sometimes extended discussions of philosophical views concerning the nature of the word, the question of reference, modes of meaning, and so on. In settling points about the language of literature, these critics constantly draw on mimamsa, logic, and grammar. In a very important sense, then, the science of literary criticism in India was but an extension of its philosophical, scholastic tradition and not in any way separate from it.

If there is any one philosophical standpoint that I constantly defend and draw on, it is that of the mimamsa school. Verbal autonomy, impersonality (anti-intentionalism and antiaffectivism), and unity of meaning are the three pillars on which the whole superstructure of mimamsa, as a theory of language, rests. In essence, this theory states that the word is a self-luminous and self-explanatory symbol and a distinct source of knowledge (pramana). No doubt, words give knowledge got from other sources by virtue of their referential function—that is, what they signify are meanings pertaining to a world (mental or material) that is outside the sign and known by other means of knowledge. But this does not mean that that knowledge is directly got from other sources; it is directly caused by the sign itself by virtue of its signifying capacity. The sign does not depend, for its own authority as an instrument of knowledge, on any external source—man or God. The mimamsa maxim has it that, in the Veda, the word itself speaks (sabde bruvati). Hence its autonomous character.

The Indian philosophy of grammar too maintains substantially the same position with respect to the authority of the word. Even as their counterparts in the West do (e.g., Saussure), the Indian theorists conceived of meaning as a referential relation between the audible word form (sabda) or the signifier and the inaudible, mentally perceived sense or object content (artha)—the signified. Unity of meaning is also an important axiom in all Indian theories. Since the spoken or written word is our only source of meaning, all meanings that a text can generate must flow from the words of the text directly, or indirectly as implications. However, meanings are not confined to the linguistic form alone, although they must be warranted by it; they are determined by what are known as the “contextual factors” (prakaranãdi). A sentence must be regarded as an “utterance,” as a purposive speech act. The limits of the meaning of a sentence are set by the twin criteria of completeness and logical consistency. But for these two conditions, it is argued, no other, superfluous meaning can be got out of a sentence. I show that these principles were also the basic presuppositions of literary criticism in Sanskrit. To my knowledge, no previous modern writer has sufficiently emphasized the relevance of the mimamsa principles to problems of criticism.

In defining literature by its aim rather than by its linguistic form, and in arguing that literature is a kind of “verbal prompting” or “evocation” of moods (chap. 3), I draw on the mimamsa theory of bhãvana. Through a subtle grammatical and logical analysis, the mimamsa theorist shows that the Vedic texts are a form of verbal prompting, that prompting men to perform certain ritual acts is, in modern terminology, their illocutionary force. The application of this principle to literature is suggested by the critics themselves (Abhinavagupta, Bhattanäyaka, and Dhanika). But this idea has not been picked up by modern exponents, and its implications have not been explored.

“Generalization of meanings” is another semantic principle that is quite central to the Sanskrit theory of aesthetic experience. Abhinavagupta shows how this process of generalization is a feature of poetic apprehension. The authority for this, once again, comes from the mimãmsa theory of the import of propositions (sabda-bodha). The implications of this idea for the problem of the poetic universal and poetic truth are discussed in chapter 9.

Some recent exponents, notably, A. K. Coomaraswamy, K. C. Pandey, and J. L. Masson, have given needlessly metaphysicized accounts of Indian aesthetics. Following such accounts, many people in the West have the impression that Indian art and art theories have to be studied only in their religious, transcendental setting. But, as it should become clear from this essay, Sanskrit criticism—at any rate, the mainstream of it—had nothing to do with religion or metaphysics. The various theories of poetry—rasa, dhvani, and so forth—were all based on purely aesthetic considerations and not put forward as theories of reality or world hypotheses.

All the philosophical schools in India, including those espousing logic and mimamsa, no doubt originated in theological disputations and had a metaphysical axe to grind. But what is often not appreciated is the fact that, in the process of defending their own systems, they also raise valuable philosophical questions concerning language, meaning, and truth that can be studied for their own importance, independent of their original contexts. The insights they offer into such problems and the discursive tools they developed can be fruitfully employed in any critical investigation, quite apart from the metaphysics. For example, the mimamsa rules of interpretation and analysis of sentence types have their value even outside the Veda. Bhartrhari’s metaphysical doctrine of the Word as Brahman (Sabda-Brahma-Väda) does not detract from the value of his analyses of word and sentence and of verbal cognition. In dealing with the phenomenon of language itself, his method is strictly empirical and analytic. As for the literary critics, while they use the insights of all these philosophers wherever they can, they generally remain metaphysically uncommitted as far as critical inquiry is concerned. A notable example is Abhinavagupta himself, who, though he was a follower of Kashmir Saivism and may have read some of that mysticism into his account of aesthetic experience, never really allows his metaphysical interests to interfere with his critical analyses.

Some Western scholars may be inclined to think that the Indian theories are valuable only for understanding Indian literatures and culture. But this, I think, is not the right conception. There surely are some general principles in aesthetics and art, whether formulated by Eastern or Western thinkers, whose validity may be seen to extend beyond their native boundaries.’ That the ideas discussed here apply cross-culturally is amply demonstrated in nearly every chapter of this book by the frequent examples I give from English literature.

Since my aim is also to present the Sanskrit materials in a comparative perspective, I discuss parallel strains in modern Western, chiefly Anglo- American, criticism. However, a systematic comparative study is not the aim. Such a study would have involved a far more thorough treatment of Western thought than could be undertaken within the limits of the present work. Therefore, I cite only those critics or critical ideas that have an immediate bearing on my discussions and can illuminate the issues at hand. My object is primarily to test the validity of the Sanskrit ideas and see how useful they are in theorizing about literature. The Western parallels are used for purposes of illustration, contrast, or confirmation. The comparisons also serve another purpose. They relate the issues raised in Sanskrit criticism to contemporary critical debates and thus show their relevance to the interests and concerns of our own time. The topics in terms of which this book is organized are at the center of modern aesthetic discussions. I have profited a great deal from recent Anglo-American aesthetics, especially from the work of Beardsley, from the speech act theory of Austin and Searle, and generally from the analytic spirit of contemporary philosophical thought. Some of the critical terms I employ and the criteria of judgment are drawn from these sources. I am aware, though, that some of the conclusions reached here run counter to the established notions of our age; they may, in fact, seem reactionary to many. For one thing, an emotive theory of literature is likely to be viewed with suspicion, however one may argue its case. So is any theory that puts greater emphasis on meaning than on style and language or argues for an ornamental view of style. No doubt, this view has a long tradition in Western criticism too, from Aristotle down to the neoclassical age. But it goes against the grain of much modern thinking. Also, the rather absolutist, essentialist view of literature that I advocate would be resisted by many in an age committed to pluralism and open-endedness. Postmodernist criticism has sought to force a revision of the traditional notions of language and meaning, and deconstruction has even questioned the possibility of a meaningful critical discourse. Influential as these movements are with the present generation of critics, they do not, in my opinion, invalidate the classical argument for the objectivity, stability, and determinacy of verbal meanings and for the reliability of language as an instrument of knowledge ( and communication. Such notions are the very basis of human discourse and cannot be unsettled too easily, as the Hindu philosophers show in refuting the arguments of the Buddhist nihilists. They are also the basic presuppositions of philosophical thought in the West, down the ages, and still continue to be in the mainstream of Anglo- American criticism.

The discussions presented here are technical and involve subtle, and sometimes hairsplitting, logical and semantic distinctions. But while the logical subtleties could not altogether be avoided, I have tried to render them in the modern idiom, as far as possible. Critical discussions in Sanskrit are also conducted in an argumentative style, on the model of “the opponent’s view” (parva-paksa), refutation, and “the established view” (siddhãnta). A critic could not be supposed to have established his own standpoint until he has refuted other standpoints and answered all possible objections. The same dialectical need dictates the somewhat argumentative spirit of my presentations and makes it necessary for me to take sides in the critical debates.

My concern, in this study, is with certain conceptual issues pertaining to the understanding of literature that are the same in both the Sanskrit and the English critical traditions. I therefore attempt merely to abstract from the Sanskrit texts certain general principles that have value in theorizing about literature. The study of Sanskrit literature itself is not one of my aims. On the other hand, in illustrating the various ideas, I depend to a large extent on English examples in order to facilitate the understanding of the non-Sanskritists.

Finally, I must caution the reader not to expect to find here any new theories or startling conclusions. The aim of this study has been to expound, clarify, and evaluate some very old ideas, purely in the spirit of critical investigation. However, I believe that the interest of Sanskrit criticism is not merely historical but theoretical as well. The arguments put forward by these ancient thinkers bear on matters that are basic to critical discussions at all times, and they may even be seen sometimes to bring clarification to our thinking about language and literature.

 

Contents

 

  Acknowledgments ix
  Sanskrit Critical Schools and Writers xi
1 Introduction 1
2 Rasa: Poetry and the Emotions 9
3 The Essentiality of the emotions 29
4 The Logic of the Emotions 48
5 Modes of Meaning: Metaphor 75
6 Suggestion 95
7 Style and Meaning 132
8 The Logic of Interpretation 161
9 Poetic Apprehension and Poetic Truth 195
10 The Validity of Rasa as a Theoretical Concept 227
  Notes 253
  Bibliography 283
  Index 297
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Sanskrit Criticism

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1993
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From the Jacket

This innovative study develops a unified theory of literature by critically evaluating the categories of Sanskrit poetics from a single theoretical standpoint-that of rasa, the theory that holds that poetry is essentially emotive discourse. Literature, Chari-argues, is defined not by the use of any formal linguistic devices, but rather by the emotive meaning embodied in the work. The presentation of emotions is therefore the proper aim and the common denominator of all literary works. From this standpoint, poetic statements can be shown to possess a truth value of their own and to convey valid knowledge.

Unlike previous studies addressed primarily to Indologists, Sanskrit Criticism presents traditional thought in a comparative light and, so far as possible, in a modern idiom. Indian concepts of meaning, interpretation, and truth are assimilated into contemporary aesthetic debates in the West in such a way as to make them part of a universal critical discourse. Central to Chari’s position is the claim that the validity of these concepts is not limited to Indian literature alone but extends to other literatures as well. Accordingly, most of the literary examples cited are taken from English.

Sanskrit Criticism makes a fresh contribution to contemporary criticism and will be stimulating reading not only for comparatists but for anyone interested in the theory of literature.

V.K. Chari, professor of English at Carleton University in Ottawa, received his degrees in Sanskrit and English from Banaras Hindu University. He has taught English and American literature at universities in India, the U.S., and Canada, and is the author of Whitman in the Light of Vedantic Mysticism.

Introduction

In this book, I address myself to a twofold task: to present brief profiles of the major concepts of criticism in Sanskrit, together with a critique of them, and also, wherever possible, to review the Sanskrit theories in a comparative light to see how they stand up against critical thinking in the West, especially of our own age. When I set out to write this book, I felt that there was no need for another book of expositions or for a history of concepts, along traditional lines, after the many scholarly studies by Indian as well as Western Sanskritists. What cried out to be done, I felt, was to attempt a reevaluation of the Indian theories in the terms provided by the ancient systems themselves. It also seemed to me that most previous discussions (barring Edwin Gerow’s Glossary of Indian Figures of Speech, which argues for a figurative aesthetic) were inconclusive in their assessment of the relative merits of the various concepts and schools of criticism; they seldom promised anything like a consistent general theory of literature.’ Such a theory, if one were to be worked out, had, however, to come out of the very materials of traditional thought—it was not to be imposed from the outside. This consideration led me to look for a theoretical standpoint in the doctrine of rasa (roughly translated as “emotive aesthetics”)—a standpoint from which I could evaluate all other theories and concepts and for which I could also find sufficient support in the texts and commentaries. Rasa is the most important concept in Indian aesthetics and may be seen as a. pervasive influence in the theories of painting, sculpture, and dance in addition to poetry and dramaturgy.

Thus, of the four major concepts that dominated the critical scene in ancient India—namely, figuration (alamkara,or poetry as figurative or deviant speech), style (riti, poetry as structured expression), suggestion (dhvani, poetry as indirect expression), and rasa (poetry as emotive expression)—I take my stand on the rasa theory and criticize the other theories in that light. I argue that poetry is better defined by its evocatory aim than by any formal peculiarities or by any special semantics of its own. This, however, is not entirely my own conclusion but, as I show, what is stated explicitly or implicitly by the critics themselves. My criticisms, too, rest on a detailed examination of the relevant critical and philosophical texts.

Thus, while for the most part I derive my authority from what the Sanskrit critics themselves have to say, I also add something to traditional discussions. I present new arguments in support of or against the theories in question. Where the critics or their commentators seem undecided about the validity of a given theory or overly accommodating in treating rival theories, I force the issues to their logical conclusions and try to demonstrate their strengths or weaknesses. For instance, a sort of dubiety seems to characterize traditional discussions of the theory of poetic suggestion (dhvani). But I take a hard look at this theory and question its claim that poetry is necessarily a “suggestive” use of language. I further argue that, in the final analysis, even according to the protagonists of dhvani, rasa rather than dhvani is the ultimate criterion of literariness. I defend the view of the opponents of the theory that suggestion is at best an aspect of poetic discourse, not what defines its nature.

In presenting a theory of style as ornamentation of meaning, I base my argument on what the Dhvani critics themselves state explicitly about the language of poetry as well as on some implications contained in their comments, although I reject their general position on the status of suggestion. I also use the traditional distinction between poetic form as ornament and poetic meaning as the ornamented and argue the nonessential, that is, nondefining, nature of the former. I reach the conclusion that literature is not, in the ultimate analysis, a type of language use but a type of meaning—emotive meaning, specifically. Some literary examples can be shown to exhibit no marked stylistic features, to be stylistically neutral. In this connection, I point out that one of the most valuable contributions of the rasa theory to literary criticism is its emphasis on the context of meaning being the determinant of style. The rasa theory does not of course deny the functionality of style or of figures. Formal features do serve an evocative function when there is a context for them. But meaning is what gives form its reason for being.

Some people may doubt the universal applicability of rasa as a principle of criticism. Arguing from the standpoint of the figurationists (the Alamkãra school), Gerow has expressed the view that, while rasa (the emotive element) is important for drama and its performance, it is certainly not essential for poetry as a verbal art. He writes, “The best that can be said of rasa in the context of verbal or poetic expression is that it is an aspect or element thereof.” Gerow points out that, in terms of its historical evolution, the rasa theory was first conceived by Bharata in the context of the theater and that it was only later, when the theatrical art ceased to be a living force and lyrical (strophic) poetry took its place, that the application of rasa was extended to all poetry. This may very well have been the case, but what is significant for aesthetics is that rasa was made into such a general principle and its application demonstrated by Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta. Gerow makes much of the generic distinction between drama and poetry. But, as Abhinavagupta asserts, poetry too is essentially drama, a verbal enactment of the emotions. Bharata too, it must be remembered, speaks of rasa in connection with the dramatic text (kavya) as also in connection with the nonverbal representation in the theater. There is no “qualitative difference” between drama and theatrical representation, only a “quantitative difference of emotion.” This study will show that rasa is all pervasive and cuts across generic boundaries. It must be present, as a shaping principle, in all writing worth the name literature, be it a haiku, an epic, a novel, or a drama.

This is not of course to claim that, as a theoretical concept and principle of definition, rasa exhausts, or renders unnecessary, all other critical considerations—considerations of structure, style, generic mode, imagery, and so forth. This is only to say that such considerations become significant only insofar as they are guided by the principle of rasa. A general theory of poetry, it should be realized, can do no more than provide the guidelines for the practical business of criticism. A book dealing with literary theory must naturally consider general problems of meaning, especially given the assumption of the Sanskrit critics that the semantics of literature must derive its sanction from the semantics of ordinary language, however different literary language may sometimes appear to be. A large part of this study is therefore taken up by the problems of general semantics—language, meaning, and interpretation (discussed in chaps. , 6, and 8)—for which I have drawn heavily on the theories of meaning formulated by the ancient philosophical schools, primarily the mimamsa school of thought. Interpretation is a central issue, not only in general semantics and philosophical analysis, but in aesthetic criticism as well (see Hirsch, Beardsley, and Sparshott, among others). Therefore, in chapter 8, I deal with this problem, outlining in some detail the mimamsa rules of interpretation and also showing the application of some of them to literary examples.

Literary criticism, in the Sanskrit tradition, has been understood to be a sastra—by which is meant any systematic, well-formulated body of knowledge. A “sastraic” exposition is supposed to involve three different kinds of inquiry: (i) inquiry into the nature of substances or the categories of knowledge (paddrtha-mimamsa); (ii) inquiry into the nature of language (sabda-mimamsa), since language is the invariable medium in which knowledge is formulated; and (iii) inquiry into the validity of critical statements (pramana-mimamsa). Of these, the first and the third traditionally came under the purview of logic or nyaya, which is called pramana-sastra, whereas the second, language, came under grammar (vyakarana), which dealt with words (pada-sastra). Purva-mimamsa stressed the sentence aspect of language and was known as vakya-sastra. As an exegetical science, mimamsa was concerned with the interpretation of the comprehensive meanings of the Vedic texts. As a scientific inquiry, literary criticism in Sanskrit borrowed its modes of procedure, its logic, and its conceptual language from these formalistic disciplines. Logic, grammar, and mimamsa, rather than such metaphysical systems as Vedanta, Samkhya, and Yoga, set the pattern for critical discussions in Sanskrit.

An important feature of this study is that the expositions of the various critical theories are set in their proper context of philosophical ideas. For dealing with any kind of text, scriptural or literary, we need to have a set of logical, semantic, and epistemological concepts. The Sanskrit critics take it as axiomatic that the problems of literary meaning are not a special class of problems but those that are common to all philosophical analysis. They assume that an understanding of the basic philosophical problems is a necessary prerequisite for the understanding of critical questions and a basis for a theory of poetics. Most manuals of poetics in Sanskrit, therefore, contain sections on theories of meaning and sometimes extended discussions of philosophical views concerning the nature of the word, the question of reference, modes of meaning, and so on. In settling points about the language of literature, these critics constantly draw on mimamsa, logic, and grammar. In a very important sense, then, the science of literary criticism in India was but an extension of its philosophical, scholastic tradition and not in any way separate from it.

If there is any one philosophical standpoint that I constantly defend and draw on, it is that of the mimamsa school. Verbal autonomy, impersonality (anti-intentionalism and antiaffectivism), and unity of meaning are the three pillars on which the whole superstructure of mimamsa, as a theory of language, rests. In essence, this theory states that the word is a self-luminous and self-explanatory symbol and a distinct source of knowledge (pramana). No doubt, words give knowledge got from other sources by virtue of their referential function—that is, what they signify are meanings pertaining to a world (mental or material) that is outside the sign and known by other means of knowledge. But this does not mean that that knowledge is directly got from other sources; it is directly caused by the sign itself by virtue of its signifying capacity. The sign does not depend, for its own authority as an instrument of knowledge, on any external source—man or God. The mimamsa maxim has it that, in the Veda, the word itself speaks (sabde bruvati). Hence its autonomous character.

The Indian philosophy of grammar too maintains substantially the same position with respect to the authority of the word. Even as their counterparts in the West do (e.g., Saussure), the Indian theorists conceived of meaning as a referential relation between the audible word form (sabda) or the signifier and the inaudible, mentally perceived sense or object content (artha)—the signified. Unity of meaning is also an important axiom in all Indian theories. Since the spoken or written word is our only source of meaning, all meanings that a text can generate must flow from the words of the text directly, or indirectly as implications. However, meanings are not confined to the linguistic form alone, although they must be warranted by it; they are determined by what are known as the “contextual factors” (prakaranãdi). A sentence must be regarded as an “utterance,” as a purposive speech act. The limits of the meaning of a sentence are set by the twin criteria of completeness and logical consistency. But for these two conditions, it is argued, no other, superfluous meaning can be got out of a sentence. I show that these principles were also the basic presuppositions of literary criticism in Sanskrit. To my knowledge, no previous modern writer has sufficiently emphasized the relevance of the mimamsa principles to problems of criticism.

In defining literature by its aim rather than by its linguistic form, and in arguing that literature is a kind of “verbal prompting” or “evocation” of moods (chap. 3), I draw on the mimamsa theory of bhãvana. Through a subtle grammatical and logical analysis, the mimamsa theorist shows that the Vedic texts are a form of verbal prompting, that prompting men to perform certain ritual acts is, in modern terminology, their illocutionary force. The application of this principle to literature is suggested by the critics themselves (Abhinavagupta, Bhattanäyaka, and Dhanika). But this idea has not been picked up by modern exponents, and its implications have not been explored.

“Generalization of meanings” is another semantic principle that is quite central to the Sanskrit theory of aesthetic experience. Abhinavagupta shows how this process of generalization is a feature of poetic apprehension. The authority for this, once again, comes from the mimãmsa theory of the import of propositions (sabda-bodha). The implications of this idea for the problem of the poetic universal and poetic truth are discussed in chapter 9.

Some recent exponents, notably, A. K. Coomaraswamy, K. C. Pandey, and J. L. Masson, have given needlessly metaphysicized accounts of Indian aesthetics. Following such accounts, many people in the West have the impression that Indian art and art theories have to be studied only in their religious, transcendental setting. But, as it should become clear from this essay, Sanskrit criticism—at any rate, the mainstream of it—had nothing to do with religion or metaphysics. The various theories of poetry—rasa, dhvani, and so forth—were all based on purely aesthetic considerations and not put forward as theories of reality or world hypotheses.

All the philosophical schools in India, including those espousing logic and mimamsa, no doubt originated in theological disputations and had a metaphysical axe to grind. But what is often not appreciated is the fact that, in the process of defending their own systems, they also raise valuable philosophical questions concerning language, meaning, and truth that can be studied for their own importance, independent of their original contexts. The insights they offer into such problems and the discursive tools they developed can be fruitfully employed in any critical investigation, quite apart from the metaphysics. For example, the mimamsa rules of interpretation and analysis of sentence types have their value even outside the Veda. Bhartrhari’s metaphysical doctrine of the Word as Brahman (Sabda-Brahma-Väda) does not detract from the value of his analyses of word and sentence and of verbal cognition. In dealing with the phenomenon of language itself, his method is strictly empirical and analytic. As for the literary critics, while they use the insights of all these philosophers wherever they can, they generally remain metaphysically uncommitted as far as critical inquiry is concerned. A notable example is Abhinavagupta himself, who, though he was a follower of Kashmir Saivism and may have read some of that mysticism into his account of aesthetic experience, never really allows his metaphysical interests to interfere with his critical analyses.

Some Western scholars may be inclined to think that the Indian theories are valuable only for understanding Indian literatures and culture. But this, I think, is not the right conception. There surely are some general principles in aesthetics and art, whether formulated by Eastern or Western thinkers, whose validity may be seen to extend beyond their native boundaries.’ That the ideas discussed here apply cross-culturally is amply demonstrated in nearly every chapter of this book by the frequent examples I give from English literature.

Since my aim is also to present the Sanskrit materials in a comparative perspective, I discuss parallel strains in modern Western, chiefly Anglo- American, criticism. However, a systematic comparative study is not the aim. Such a study would have involved a far more thorough treatment of Western thought than could be undertaken within the limits of the present work. Therefore, I cite only those critics or critical ideas that have an immediate bearing on my discussions and can illuminate the issues at hand. My object is primarily to test the validity of the Sanskrit ideas and see how useful they are in theorizing about literature. The Western parallels are used for purposes of illustration, contrast, or confirmation. The comparisons also serve another purpose. They relate the issues raised in Sanskrit criticism to contemporary critical debates and thus show their relevance to the interests and concerns of our own time. The topics in terms of which this book is organized are at the center of modern aesthetic discussions. I have profited a great deal from recent Anglo-American aesthetics, especially from the work of Beardsley, from the speech act theory of Austin and Searle, and generally from the analytic spirit of contemporary philosophical thought. Some of the critical terms I employ and the criteria of judgment are drawn from these sources. I am aware, though, that some of the conclusions reached here run counter to the established notions of our age; they may, in fact, seem reactionary to many. For one thing, an emotive theory of literature is likely to be viewed with suspicion, however one may argue its case. So is any theory that puts greater emphasis on meaning than on style and language or argues for an ornamental view of style. No doubt, this view has a long tradition in Western criticism too, from Aristotle down to the neoclassical age. But it goes against the grain of much modern thinking. Also, the rather absolutist, essentialist view of literature that I advocate would be resisted by many in an age committed to pluralism and open-endedness. Postmodernist criticism has sought to force a revision of the traditional notions of language and meaning, and deconstruction has even questioned the possibility of a meaningful critical discourse. Influential as these movements are with the present generation of critics, they do not, in my opinion, invalidate the classical argument for the objectivity, stability, and determinacy of verbal meanings and for the reliability of language as an instrument of knowledge ( and communication. Such notions are the very basis of human discourse and cannot be unsettled too easily, as the Hindu philosophers show in refuting the arguments of the Buddhist nihilists. They are also the basic presuppositions of philosophical thought in the West, down the ages, and still continue to be in the mainstream of Anglo- American criticism.

The discussions presented here are technical and involve subtle, and sometimes hairsplitting, logical and semantic distinctions. But while the logical subtleties could not altogether be avoided, I have tried to render them in the modern idiom, as far as possible. Critical discussions in Sanskrit are also conducted in an argumentative style, on the model of “the opponent’s view” (parva-paksa), refutation, and “the established view” (siddhãnta). A critic could not be supposed to have established his own standpoint until he has refuted other standpoints and answered all possible objections. The same dialectical need dictates the somewhat argumentative spirit of my presentations and makes it necessary for me to take sides in the critical debates.

My concern, in this study, is with certain conceptual issues pertaining to the understanding of literature that are the same in both the Sanskrit and the English critical traditions. I therefore attempt merely to abstract from the Sanskrit texts certain general principles that have value in theorizing about literature. The study of Sanskrit literature itself is not one of my aims. On the other hand, in illustrating the various ideas, I depend to a large extent on English examples in order to facilitate the understanding of the non-Sanskritists.

Finally, I must caution the reader not to expect to find here any new theories or startling conclusions. The aim of this study has been to expound, clarify, and evaluate some very old ideas, purely in the spirit of critical investigation. However, I believe that the interest of Sanskrit criticism is not merely historical but theoretical as well. The arguments put forward by these ancient thinkers bear on matters that are basic to critical discussions at all times, and they may even be seen sometimes to bring clarification to our thinking about language and literature.

 

Contents

 

  Acknowledgments ix
  Sanskrit Critical Schools and Writers xi
1 Introduction 1
2 Rasa: Poetry and the Emotions 9
3 The Essentiality of the emotions 29
4 The Logic of the Emotions 48
5 Modes of Meaning: Metaphor 75
6 Suggestion 95
7 Style and Meaning 132
8 The Logic of Interpretation 161
9 Poetic Apprehension and Poetic Truth 195
10 The Validity of Rasa as a Theoretical Concept 227
  Notes 253
  Bibliography 283
  Index 297
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