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Abhinavagupta, and . Abhinavabhāratī

2006, In M.M. Ghosh (ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation.Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation.

Summary: Abhinavagupta’s famed commentary on Bharatamuni’s treatise on drama, the Nāṭyaśāstra, in which he details aesthetic expression and experience according to a theory of rasa, or aesthetic relish. Abhinavagupta’s theory is the most influential account of how the rasas or aesthetic emotions transcend the bounds of the spectator and artwork in a three-part process including depersonalization, universalization, and identification.

Comment: This text is appropriate for an in-depth study of Indian aesthetics. It requires an at least an introductory background in Indian philosophy to be accessible.

Chakrabarti, Arindam, and . Ownerless Emotions in Rasa-Aesthetics

2011, In Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.). Asian Aesthetics. National Univeristy of Singapore Press.

Summary: Chakrabarti explores the possibilities of rasa theory via the question of whose emotion is experienced when an audience relishes a work of art. Chakrabarti argues for the existence of a “centerless non-singular subjectivity” according to which the special emotions savored in aesthetic experience do not have specific owners. These personless sentiments indicate an ethical relationship between aesthetic imagination and moral unselfishness.

Comment: This text could serve as both an overview of rasa theory in Indian aesthetics, as a basis for comparative work in cross-cultural aesthetics, as well as comparative philosophy.

Related reading:

  • Abhinavabhāratī. Abhinavagupta. In Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation. M.M. Ghosh (ed.). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2006.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., and . Samvega, ‘Aesthetic Shock’

1943, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7(3): 174-179.

Summary: An explication of the Pali aesthetic term samvega as the state of shock and wonder at a work of art that occurs when the implications of its aesthetic qualities are experienced. Despite being an emotion, Coomaraswamy associates samvega with disinterested aesthetic contemplation.

Comment: This text would work well in a focused study of Indian aesthetics, as well in a cross-cultural study of disinterest in aesthetics.

Wingo, Ajume H., and . African Art and the Aesthetics of Hiding and Revealing

1998, British Journal of Aesthetics 38(3): 251-264

Content: This text focuses on identifying distinctive features of African art. First, African art is virtually always functional and although it can be enjoyed intrinsically, it is rarely created for its own sake. It is a part of the social and political structure and cannot be understood without an understanding of this structure. The function of such art is to ‘veil social functions’: communicate that there exist secrets available to those initiated without communicating those secrets to everyone. Wingo further focuses on masks and dance as examples of African art which are experienced in specific, culturally embedded ways. He offers detailed descriptions and a theoretical analysis of various artistic and cultural practices, showing the uniqueness of the experiences they afford and arguing that they cannot be experienced or understood without a prior immersion in the culture they are part of.

Comment: The primary value of this text lies in the detailed first-hand account and a theoretical analysis of particular non-Western art practices. Most of the other, more theoretical articles in this section talk about non-Western art in a very abstract way. But surely understanding the differences between arts of different cultures requires a grasp of what the art of those cultures is like. Wingo’s text offers a valuable insight into one such cultural context and his text can be very useful when taught alongside more theoretical articles.