The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India

Univ of California Press
2
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In this work of impressive scholarship, Sheldon Pollock explores the remarkable rise and fall of Sanskrit, India's ancient language, as a vehicle of poetry and polity. He traces the two great moments of its transformation: the first around the beginning of the Common Era, when Sanskrit, long a sacred language, was reinvented as a code for literary and political expression, the start of an amazing career that saw Sanskrit literary culture spread from Afghanistan to Java. The second moment occurred around the beginning of the second millennium, when local speech forms challenged and eventually replaced Sanskrit in both the literary and political arenas. Drawing striking parallels, chronologically as well as structurally, with the rise of Latin literature and the Roman empire, and with the new vernacular literatures and nation-states of late-medieval Europe, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men asks whether these very different histories challenge current theories of culture and power and suggest new possibilities for practice.
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About the author

Sheldon Pollock is William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Studies at Columbia University, and former George V. Bobrinskoy Distinguished Service Professor at The University of Chicago. His previous publications include Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia (California, 2003), Cosmopolitanism (2002, with Homi Bhabha et al.), and The Ramayana of Valmiki, Volume III: Aranyakanda (1991), and Volume II: Ayodhyakanda (1986).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of California Press
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Published on
May 23, 2006
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Pages
703
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ISBN
9780520932029
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the early years of the Common Era to 1700, Indian intellectuals explored with unparalleled subtlety the place of emotion in art. Their investigations led to the deconstruction of art's formal structures and broader inquiries into the pleasure of tragic tales. Rasa, or taste, was the word they chose to describe art's aesthetics, and their passionate effort to pin down these phenomena became its own remarkable act of creation.

This book is the first in any language to follow the evolution of rasa from its origins in dramaturgical thought—a concept for the stage—to its flourishing in literary thought—a concept for the page. A Rasa Reader incorporates primary texts by every significant thinker on classical Indian aesthetics, many never translated before. The arrangement of the selections captures the intellectual dynamism that has powered this debate for centuries. Headnotes explain the meaning and significance of each text, a comprehensive introduction summarizes major threads in intellectual-historical terms, and critical endnotes and an extensive bibliography add further depth to the selections. The Sanskrit theory of emotion in art is one of the most sophisticated in the ancient world, a precursor of the work being done today by critics and philosophers of aesthetics. A Rasa Reader's conceptual detail, historical precision, and clarity will appeal to any scholar interested in a full portrait of global intellectual development.

A Rasa Reader is the inaugural book in the Historical Sourcebooks in Classical Indian Thought series, edited by Sheldon Pollock. These text-based books guide readers through the most important forms of classical Indian thought, from epistemology, rhetoric, and hermeneutics to astral science, yoga, and medicine. Each volume provides fresh translations of key works, headnotes to contextualize selections, a comprehensive analysis of major lines of development within the discipline, and exegetical and text-critical endnotes, as well as a bibliography. Designed for comparativists and interested general readers, Historical Sourcebooks is also a great resource for advanced scholars seeking authoritative commentary on challenging works.

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