Art Theory I From Pre-modern to 18th century

- Prof Parul Dave Mukherji

This course broadly aims to explore art theories that were formulated in the pre-modern India and the west concerning the intersections of art and metaphysics/philosophy/ritual. It takes up a comparative approach to the study of key aesthetic concepts cross culturally such as theories of visual representation, mimesis, anukrti, catharsis and tragedy so as to foreground their cultural specificity and conceptual intersections. It will also explore the status of truth and knowledge in production of art and understanding of aesthetic experience, the role of the spectator/ audience and that of skill in the rendering of visual experience across the history of western and Indian art writings. To what extent the social and political hierarchy based on class, caste and gender differentiation came to under-gird different classification of arts as high and low, desi and margi and also the genres of art will also be addressed. How pervasive was the category of religion and ritual in the formulation of pre-modern art theories across cultural boundaries and how with Renaissance aesthetics, a shift to author centric approach came to dominate western theories? That the myth of anonymous creativity in traditional Indian art was created more by the nationalist imperatives than attested by traditional notions of aesthetics will be explored. Similarly, the Romantic theories of artist as genius may be compared with parallel Indian concepts of Pratibha and Riti that had made comparable investment in individual creativity. It will also be demonstrated via a detour to Tamil aesthetics the limitations of any monolithic understanding of Indian aesthetics as Sanskrit aesthetics.

Key Readings:

• Forrest E Baird and Walter Kaufmann Eds., From Plato to Derrida, Prentice Hall, 2002.

• K C Pandey, Indian Aesthetics, Vol. I, Choukhambe Press, Varanasi, 1956.

• V K Chari, Sanskrit Criticism, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1990.

• E Deutsch, Comparative Aesthetics, in Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, Vol. 1, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998 pp. 409-12.

• G N Devy Ed Indian Literary Criticism, New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2000

• Raymond Williams Drama from Ibsen to Brecht, Penguin Books • Bharat Gupt Dramatic Concepts: Natyashastra and Poetics, New Delhi: MLBD