Saturday, August 30, 2014
Dr. K. KRISHNAMOORTHY’S
CONTRIBUTION TO COMPARATIVE POETICS
That the introduction of English education in India during the colonial period led to complex –and often self-contradictory –consequences is too well-known to be discussed afresh. However, it is an indisputable fact that it also bred a host of exceptional bilingual scholars, spurred by William Jones’s articles on ‘comparative Linguistics,’ who dedicated their lives to the study of Sanskrit language and literature from a non-traditional perspective: Orientalists in England and Europe, Transcendentalists in the U.S., and ‘jung grammatiker’ or ‘the New Grammarians’ in Germany. These scholars collected, edited and published old Sanskrit texts, both secular and sacred, and interpreted them from a modern point of view. Also, since the language of analysis and interpretation was, more often than not, English, its intended readership was both pan-Indian and international. This period is often recognized as ‘the renaissance of Sanskrit’ and some of the great Indian scholars who worked in this ‘renaissance period’ were Dr. R. G. Bhandarkar, Mahamahopadhyaya Kuppuswamy Shastry, Acharya Kane, and many others. Dr. Keralapura Krishnamoorthy belongs to this great line of scholars.
Dr. Krishnamoorthy’s multi-faceted scholarship, stretched over a period of four to five decades, overwhelms one by its sheer volume. As his daughter, Dr. Leela Prakash, lists in her ‘Introduction’ to the felicitation volume ¸nanda Bh¹rati, his publications included: a) over two hundred scholarly papers on Sanskrit poetics, b) critical editions of three unpublished major literary works in Sanskrit, c) English and Kannada translations of a score of major texts in Sanskrit poetics, d) works on individual authors like Kalidasa and Banabhatta, and e) translations into Kannada of Winternitz’s History of Indian Literature and Acharya Kane’s History of Dharma¶¹stra. In this short paper, I am mainly concerned with his contribution to comparative poetics.
Of course, Krishnamoorthy was not the first to write on Sanskrit poetics in English; there were many stalwarts who preceded him: A. Shankaran (Some Aspects of Literary Criticism in Sanskrit, 1925), S. S. Sukthankar (K¹vya Prak¹¶a, 1941), V. Raghavan (Some Concepts of Alank¹ra Sh¹stra, 1942), Kuppuswamy Shastry (High Ways and Byways of Literary Criticism in Sanskrit, 1945), M. Hiriyanna (Art Experience, 1954), S. K. De (Some Problems of Sanskrit Poetics, 1959), P. V. Kane (History of Sanskrit Poetics, 1961), etc. However, Krishnamoorthy differed from all these scholars in many ways. He was a tri-lingual scholar who wrote in English, Kannada and Sanskrit; and he was an editor-critic-translator par excellence.
His contribution to comparative poetics can, briefly, be considered under two heads: authoritative editions and comparative studies of Sanskrit and British/American poetics.
I a) : Authoritative Editions: The following are the major works in
Sanskrit poetics which Krishnamoorthy edited with critical notes and translated into English: Anandavardhana, Dhwany¹løka; Kuntaka, Vakrøktij»vita; Abhinava-gupta, Løchana; and Bharata, N¹yash¹stra with Abhinava Bh¹rati. Of these, the second work needs a special mention.
Till Krishnamoorthy took up the work, only the first two chapters and a part of the third chapter of Vakrøktij»vita were available, edited and published by S. K. De, in 1923. Although De later brought out a revised edition of the work in 1928, it remained still fragmentary (without the fourth chapter) and unsatisfactory. The third edition of the same work, published by K. L. Mukhopadhyay in 1961, was almost a mechanical reprint of De’s 1928 edition. Krishnamoorthy, who had been interested in this work since his graduate-days, came to know by chance that a new palm-leaf manuscript of the work was available in Jaisalmer Bhandar. Immediately, he visited the Bhandar (library), got photostat copies of the old palm-leaf manuscript, and with the help of other available manuscripts and allied works like Kalpalat¹viv∙ka, he was able to reconstruct all the four chapters of Kuntaka’s work, for the first time. Then, he published the complete work, with its English translation and critical notes, in 1977. Since then, thanks to the enormous labour and scholarship of Krishnamoorthy, Vakrøktij»vita has proved a seminal text for scholars interested in comparative poetics.
b) : Krishnamoorthy competently translated into Kannada almost all the major Sanskrit texts on poetics, with critical notes and a detailed introduction to the author. The following are his Kannada translations:
i Anandavardhana, Dhvany¹løka, 1951; ii Vamana, K¹vy¹lank¹rasØtra , 1955; iii Mammata, K¹vyaprak¹¶a, 1957; iv Kshemendra, Auchitya Vich¹ra-charch¹, 1960-61; v Dandi, Kavy¹dar¶a, 1975; vi Kshemendra, Kavi Kanh¹bharaªa, 1977.
II: Comparative Criticism:
William Empson, the famous formalist critic, made this comment while discussing the possibility of ‘ambiguity’ or ‘plurality of meaning,’ as far back as 1930, that the question of ambiguity and related concepts goes back to Buddhist thinkers of the fifth century. Still it did not enthuse any Indian scholar to take up that issue and go deeper into it. On the contrary, a few scholars like S. K. De went as far as totally rejecting the Indian poetics that had been active for almost a millennium:
“Its method in general is suitable for the study of Botany or Zoology
but affords hardly any assistance for the understanding of aesthetic
facts or principles. It is like studying the index of a book than
the book itself.” (as quoted by Krishnamoorthy, Critics, p.340)
Fortunately, many later scholars politely differed from S. K. De and took up the fruitful task of comparative poetics seriously. K. Krishnamoorthy was one such.
a) Nature of Aesthetic Experience:
Krishnamoorthy’s first major work was Dhvany¹løka And Its Critics
(Kannada: 1951, English: 1974). Although the primary goal of this work is to explicate and firmly establish the ‘Dhvani’ school answering all the critics of the school, Krishnamurthy draws our attention, in the course of his discussion, to many similar views and concepts between Indian aestheticians and German Romantic thinkers. According to him, there are many similarities between Kant and Indian aestheticians like Abhinavagupta and Bhatta Nayaka, regarding aesthetic experience.
In the context of differentiating aesthetic experience from scientific and moral experience, Kant, in his Critique of Judgment, lays down ‘four moments’: moment of disinterestedness, moment of universality, moment of necessity, and the moment of finality. “It is remarkable,” states Krishnamoorthy, “that most of these ideas should be included in Abhinavagupta’s philosophy of rasa” (Dhvany¹løka, p.316). Of Kant’s four ‘moments,’ Krishnamoorthy points out that the ‘moment of disinterestedness’ is very close to Abhinavagupta’s concept of ‘ras¹nubhØti.’ Elaborating this point, he says that according to Abhinavagupta, ‘ras¹nubhØti’ is a moment of ‘other-worldly experience’ (‘alaukika chamatk¹ra’); it is totally ‘free from all pressures and constraints’ (‘v»ta- vighna- prat»ti’) ; and it is almost equal to ‘the state of pure joy in which the individual soul becomes one with the Universal Soul or Brahman’ (‘brahm¹nanda’ ). The ‘moment of universality’ as explained by Kant is what Bhattanayaka and Abhinavagupta identify as ‘s¹dh¹raª»karaªa’ (making it applicable to all/ generalisation). Kant’s ‘moment of necessity,’ Krishnamoorthy argues, is what Abhinavagupta says about rasa: ‘sakala- hrudaya- samv¹da- bh¹k’. Lastly, Mammata, following Abhinavagupta, describes ‘ras¹nubhØti’ as ‘sakala- prayøjana- mauði-bhØtam’ (‘there is nothing beyond this experience and it is not a means to anything else’), which is very close to Kant’s ‘moment of finality.’ In short, Krishnamoorthy points out, the way Indian aestheticians analyse ‘the experience of rasa’ is very similar to Kant’s analysis of ‘the experience of Beauty.’
Later, in the same chapter, Krshnamoorthy goes on to draw parallels between the accounts of aesthetic experience given by Schiller and Schopenhauer, and Abhinavagupta’s account of the same.
b) T. S. Eliot and Indian Poetics:
i. The Theory of ‘Rasa’ and the Concept of ‘objective correlative’:
In Dhvany¹løka And Its Critics, Krishnamoorthy touches upon Eliot’s
views on ‘impersonal poetry,’ with particular reference to Eliot’s famous essay “Tradition And the Individual Talent”; and points out that “the Indian distinction between Bh¹va and Rasa is very akin to the distinction between personal emotions and art-emotion, made by T. S. Eliot” (Dhvany¹løka, p. 313). However, he elaborately develops this comparative discussion of Eliot and Indian aestheticians in his later essays.
One such major essay is “Some Aspects of T. S. Eliot’s Critical Theory in
the Light of Sanskrit Poetics,” published in 1970. In this article, he continues his argument on ‘impersonal poetry’ and states:
The novelty of this paradoxical statement (‘It is not the expression of
personality but an escape from personality) can be appreciated against
the English romantic theory of the poet’s expression of personal emotions;
but in Indian criticism it does not appear either strange or original (Studies, 139).
Then, to justify his claim, he goes on to explain Bharata’s concepts of ‘bh¹va,’ ‘vibh¹va,’ and ‘vyabhich¹ri bh¹va.’ ‘Bh¹va’ is the raw emotion of a person in real life and it can never be expressed in art. ‘Vibh¹va’ (universalized stimuli),
‘anubh¹va’ ( general responses) and ‘vyabhich¹ri bh¹vas’ (associated moods and feelings) transform that personal emotion into impersonal experience..
In this context, he takes up for analysis Eliot’s concept of ‘objective correlative’ as a means impersonal poetry. Before him, Krishna Rayan had dealt with the same topic in 1965. Whether Krishnamoorthy was aware of Rayan’s argument is not known; but Krishnamoorthy’s argument appears to have been independently developed, and it is more precise. In this essay, Krishnamoorthy, mainly, discusses three issues.
a) The first one is the similarity between Bharata’s definition of ‘Rasa’
and Eliot’s formulation of ‘objective correlative.’ Krishnamoorthy quotes the well-known argument of Eliot, formulated for the first time in his essay on Hamlet (“The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; . . .”), and states that Eliot’s concepts and terms here are uncannily similar to those of Sanskrit criticism:
Now, in Indian poetics, even the earliest text, viz., Bharata’s N¹tyash¹stra,
we have the aesthetic principle of rasa whose sheet-anchor is the distinction
between causal stimuli, resultant responses and attendant moods and
feelings of any individual emotion in life and the treatment of just these in
. . . A real sorrow in life can only lead to pain in the onlooker” (Studies, 136-
Then he goes on to explain Bhattanayaka’s concept of ‘s¹dh¹raª»karaªa,’ which analyses, step by step, the process in which personal emotions and feelings are transformed into universal emotions and feelings.
As is well-known, Eliot’s formulation of ‘objective correlative’ came under severe criticism by many British and American critics. One major weakness of the formulation, according to its critics like Graham Hough, Raymond Williams, Elisio Vivas, and others, was that it reduced the entire creative process into a mere mechanical arrangement. The critics argued that before creating a work of art, no writer has complete knowledge of what he is creating, and that he ‘discovers’ it only through the process of creation. Similar criticism can be levelled against the ‘theory of Rasa.’
It is to the credit of Krishnamoorthy that he was aware of the limitations of the ‘Rasa-theory,’ which is, like Aristotle’s theory of Catharsis, is an ‘affective theory.’ In his article, “Rasa as a Canon of Literary Criticism,” he plainly and unequivocally states:
The classical theory of rasa practically fails to leave the poet a free
choice in the expression of his emotions and feelings in spite of its
assertions that he is freer than God Himself in the creative realm.
. . . Rasa, then, cannot serve as a sole canon of Sanskrit literary
criticism. It needs to be supplemented by the more serviceable
criteria of Guªa-R»ti (qualities and poetic diction and style) and
Alamk¹ra (figurative imagery) Essays, 72-73.
ii. Three Voices of Poetry and ‘Dhvani’:
Eliot, in his essay, “Three Voices of Poetry” (1953), identifies three kinds of poetic expression: the first is ‘the voice of the poet talking to himself or nobody,’ the example of which is lyric poetry; the second is ‘the voice of the poet addressing an audience,’ resulting in epic poetry; and the third is ‘the voice of the poet when he attempts to create a dramatic character speaking in verse,’ resulting in poetic drama. Eliot goes further and says that ‘it is the unique glory of poetic drama that all the three voices are heard and heard harmoniously therein.’ Krishnamoorthy begins his argument in this essay that “. . . T. S. Eliot’s ideas . . . have their echoes in an ancient Sanskrit text of literary criticism dating back to the ninth century A.D., viz. the Dhvany¹løka of Anandavardhana” (Essays, p.275).
Krishnamoorthy equates Eliot’s ‘Voice’ with Anandavardhana’s ‘Dhvani’ which, literally means ‘tone.’ He then argues that the three types of ‘Dhvani’ as enumerated by Anandavardhana anticipate Eliot’s three ‘voices’:
. . . in lyrics, etc. . . . there is Dhvani of a single Bh¹va or Rasa; in epic, etc.
there is Dhvani of more than one Rasa or Bh¹va, not necessarily falling
into a unity. But in poetic drama there is Dhvani of several Rasas and
Bh¹vas which necessarily fall into a unity. (Essays, p. 278).
Further, Krishnamoorthy says that Anandavardhana gives significant names for these three varieties: Swatah-sambhavi ( literature, naturally possible); kavi- Prau©hokti-siddha (literature imaginatively possible when the poet speaks in the first person); and kavi-nibaddha-prau©hokti-siddha (literature imaginatively possible only in a character invented by the poet). (Essays, 279) After further explication of these terms, Krishnamoorthy ends his discussion that “though there are differences in detail, one cannot mistake the identity of approach” in Eliot and Anandavardhana (Essays, 280).
C) Poetry And Purification Theories:
As is common knowledge today, Aristotle, in order to answer the charges levelled against poetry (literature) by Plato, laid down his theory of Catharsis, in his Poetics. However, he did not elaborate the ramifications of this theory except the statement in his definition of Tragedy that it “arouses pity and fear to purge off these and like emotions.” Hence, many and varied interpretations of this theory were given by scholars; and one of the interpretations advanced by Humphry House came to be called ‘Purification theory.’ According to this theory, Tragedy arouses such strong passions in spectators (readers) like pity and fear, and, through the very act of arousing them, it pacifies them and restores psychic equilibrium in the spectators (and readers).
In the essay, “Bhatta Tauta’s Defence of Poetry,” Krishnamoorthy takes up this point and draws our attention to an ancient Indian aesthetician, Bhatta Tauta (10th century, A. D., the mentor of Abhinavagupta), who puts forward a similar defence of Poetry, in his critical work K¹vyakautuka. This work, meaning ‘Wonder of Poetry’, is, unfortunately, lost today except for a few parts of this work preserved in other works. However, even these excerpts are enough to give us an idea of his major arguments in defence of Poetry.
Krishnamoorthy begins his article pointing out that “many a battle must have been fought by the champions of poetry and philosophy” even in ancient India, similar to those of Plato and Aristotle; and that the charges of the philosophers, similar to those of Plato, were made on the ground of morality:
They point to the sensuous and erotic elements that are preponderant
in poetry and ask how these, which are really hindrances, can be of
help in the achievement of Moksha. ( Essays, 48-49)
Then he quotes Bhatta Tauta’s argument:
Surely, there is no real existence of sense-objects in poetic
experience. How, then, can you complain that passions are
profoundly excited by Poetry? . . .
Our position can be stated thus: Just as dust is used to clean
up a rusty mirror, the mind of the critic is purified of passion
through passion itself. (Essays, 50)
Commenting on these excerpts of Bhatta Tauta, Krishnamoorthy argues (in his note) that “the idea has its close parallel in the Ayurvedic principle –ushªamushªena shamyati” (‘heat cures heat’); and then, he concludes:
this ‘purification’ theory of Bhatta Tauta . . . is significant as coming
from not only an able advocate of poetry but also one who virtually
inaugurated true aesthetics in Sanskrit, perfected later by his worthy
disciple, Abhinavagupta. (Essays, 50)
There are many other essays by Krishnamoorthy, in which he attempts comparative aesthetics (“Aesthetics in Indian And Western Literature: A Comparative Study”); and in one article, he undertakes the challenging task of analyzing modern English poems within the framework of the dhwani school ( “ The ‘Dhvani’ School of Criticism in Sanskrit”); and such. However, I believe the major articles I have discussed till now ably give us an insight into Krishnamoorthy’s vast scholarship in and understanding of Sanskrit and Western traditions of poetics.
Expert commentary and explication of the abstract theories and concepts of Indian poetics, authoritative editions of rare Sanskrit texts, and translations into Kannada and English of all major texts of Indian poetics—these are the primary areas of interest as well as achievement of Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy; and comparative poetics is only incidental. Still, no one can deny that he has done remarkable work in this field. However, one or two questions need to be raised regarding his astounding scholarship and the supposed ‘limitations’ of Indian poetics.
a) The entire body of Indian poetics, spread over a period of
approximately one thousand years, is basically Formalist. Underneath it is the belief that ‘there is a recognizable, autotelic and autonomous text, the meaning of which is clear and amenable to any informed and mature reader/critic.’ Roughly, this position can be called Positivist and (in Derrida’s terminology) logocentric.
Consequently, excepting brilliant, text-oriented theories and concepts, no other view of literature, like Marxist, Feminist and Historical, could enter the body of Indian poetics. In fact, it seems that Indian poetics views literature as something precious to be carefully preserved on an ivory tower -- an object, cut off from history and contemporary society, and meant only to be meditated upon.
However, ancient Sanskrit literature is far from this position; it is always shaped by contemporary concerns, and it is directly involved in the society which gave birth to it. In his major play, Abhijny¹na ˜¹kuntalam, Kalidasa seriously questions the contemporary patriarchal ideologies: his king is often ridiculed by his clown; the ignored queen’s anguish is heard from the king’s palace; and, in the end, the king, who, in the beginning represents a male-oriented system, falls at the feet of his wife, in the end. Shudraka’s Mruchchakatika, of course, brilliantly reflects a ‘world turned upside down’: it shows us a courtesan who doesn’t love money, a great merchant who is poor, a gambler who turns into a Buddhist monk, and a Brahmin who uses his sacred thread only to measure the area of the hole carved in the wall in order to thieve. Even while there were such remarkable plays before them, how could the Indian aestheticians continue, one after another, to debate which was the ‘soul’ of poetry and which wasn’t? Only a scholar of Krishnamoorthy’s calibre could confront and answer such a question; but he doesn’t; he contents himself with commentaries and explications. One wishes he had raised such a question.
b) The entire body of Sanskrit poetics and linguistics seems to have
been shaped by ‘theistic’ or ‘¸tmav¹di’ view of life; and, it has no place for ‘atheistic’ or ‘an¹tmav¹di’ schools and views. Of course, the Dravidian forms of poetics and linguistics came to light only recently, perhaps too late for Krishnamoorthy. But, being an authority on Sanskrit poetics and linguistics, one wishes, he could have paid some attention to, at least, the most ‘modern’ ‘Apøha theories’ of Buddhists in his vast-ranging academic work. Unfortunately, he doesn’t consider them at all except for a few passing references.
Admittedly, every scholar demarcates for himself/ herself the area in which he/she wishes to work, and, arguably, others have no right to question his/her choice. Consequently, we can only say about Dr. Krishnamoorthy what he says of another great aesthetician, Ananda Coomaraswamy, and end this essay: “ K. Krishnamoorthy does not give any new aesthetic theory as such, but he provides new eyes as it were to see the perfect beauty symbolized by Indian art, not as an entertainment but as a part of one’s spiritual life” (‘Three Modern Writers on Art Experience,’ Studies, p. 40).
A) Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy’s Books/Articles
1) Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, Karnatak Univ., Dharwad, 1963-64
2) Dhvany¹løka and Its Critics, Kavyalaya, Mysore, 1968
3) Vakrøkti-J»vita of Kuntaka, Karnatak Univ., Dharwad, 1977.
4) Studies in Indian Aesthetics and Criticism, D. V. K. Murthy, Mysore, 1979
5) Aspects of Poetic Language—an Indian Perspective, Poona Univ., 1988
6) “The Indian Theory of Suggestion and Some Western Parallels,” The Poona Orientalist, Vol. Xiii, No.s 3-4.
7) “Indian Poetics and T. S. Eliot’s Three Voices of Poetry,” Journal Of Mys. Univ., XV: 1
8) “Relevance of Sanskrit Aesthetics in the Field of English Studies in India,” Cygnus, Lucknow Journal, No. 1, 1979
9) “Aesthetics in Indian and Western Literature-A Comparative Study,” Annals, Univ. of Madras, Vol. 29, 1-2, 1980
10) “Figurative Language and Indian Poetics,” Journal of Indological Studies, I : I, 1986
1) Rayan, Krishna, “Rasa And the Objective Correlative,” in ed., S. K. Desai and G. N. Devy, Critical Thought: An Anthology of 20th Century Indian English Essays; New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1987.
2) Prakash, Leela, “ Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy And His Works,” in ¸nanda Bh¹rati: Dr. K. Krishnamurthy Felicitation Volume, ed. Editorial Committee, Mysore: D. V. K. Murthy, 1995.
3) Empson, William, Seven Types of Ambiguity, 1930; p. 193.
4) Vivas, Eliseo, Creation And Discovery, 1955.
--------------------------- C. N. Ramachandran