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Indisches Theater: Text, Theorie, Praxis.

Indisches Theater: Text, Theorie, Praxis. Edited by KARIN STEINER and HEIDRUN BRUCKNER. Drama und Theater in Sudasien, vol. 8. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2010. Pp. 201. [euro]42.

This is not a volume one should approach with the idea that its title has something to do with its contents. It is made up of a disparate collection of essays (using the term broadly) on narrow topics, nine in number, having little or no connection with each other, let alone with the grand subject announced. Some are of intrinsic interest, carefully documented and researched; some seem little more than transcripts of papers prepared in haste for the conference said to be at the origin of the collection. (But not all: three of the papers, including the longest, were added later, though no reason is given.) The book will be of interest to those who have a specific reason to consult one or another contribution--those interested in "Indian Theater: Text, Theory, and Practice" should look elsewhere.

A brief survey follows. Angelika Malinar discusses the sattvikabhavas, disputing the usual view that they represent "involuntary" manifestations of emotion, preferring instead the view that they should be understood "als psycho-physische Reaktionen ... die aus der real-itatsnahen, d.h. gefuhlten Vorstellung einer dramatischen Situation entstehen" (p. 24). Just how this differs from the usual view is not clear to me.

Basile Leclere devotes thirty-six pages (in valiant English) to the (to me) more or less self-evident thesis that Sanskrit plays continued to be performed in early medieval princely (Hindu and Jain) courts until the Moslem incursions put an end to such patronage--thinking that this will also put an end to the received view that Sanskrit drama became a largely "literary" phenomenon in the post-classical period. Of course, it could also be taken as another demonstration of that thesis.

Herman Tieken (also in English) discusses verses accompanied by the poet's signature (bhanita) found in certain mostly medieval dramas, Sanskrit and Prakrit, where they would appear to be ad hoc. As a survey of the problem, the essay does well, but as far as I can see, the only thesis offered consists of various hypotheses that support one another but nothing else. It seems dubious also that the one "early" instance noted (Malavika's song [M&A 2.4], attributed to one Sarmistha, variously identified) is of the same genre as, say, Vidyapati's many bhanitas (some also found in dramas). In fact, there is no "signature" at all--just an attribution made elsewhere in the text.

Roland Steiner contributes, not an essay, but extensive "philologische Untersuchungen" keyed to passages of his elsewhere published edition and translation of the "farce" Bhagavadajjuka. The reader of this translation will be obliged to have two books open on his desk.

Katrin Binder publishes what seems to be a summary of her thesis on Yaksagana, the folk-theater of the Canara districts in Karnataka, into which new life has been infused through the efforts of Sivarama Karanth and K S Haridas Bhat (among others). The argument made is that "ein integrativer Zugang aus Textarbeit und Feldforschung" (p. 126) will yield deeper understanding of such surviving folk traditions--a view that few are likely to take issue with. Nowhere (as far as I can see) are the contributions of the Rastrakavi Govinda Pai Research Centre (Udipi) to the renouveau of Yaksagana referred to.

I pass on the next item, Matthias Ahlborn's "Uber die elektronische Publikation von Sanskrit-Schauspielen"--thirteen pages on how to use the "DFG-Projekts ... multimediale Datenbank" (p. 129).

The final three contributions at least have as a common theme the "Bhasa plays" of Kerala. ("Bhasa" is usually placed in quotes, or simply referred to as "der Verfasser.") An article by Anna Aurelia Esposito is devoted to an epigraphical analysis of surviving manuscripts of the "Trivandrum-Dramen" with a view to establishing relative chronologies among them. This article may also be of interest to paleographers of the Malayalam script. Karin Steiner devotes a very interesting article to the question of which (if any) "Vedic" rituals are referred to in Bhasa's Pancaratra, a play very closely modeled on passages from the Mahabharata, to which the same question may be addressed. Much of the article is devoted to establishing the great indebtedness of the play to the epic original (probably more than the subject warrants), but the rest is well worth reading, especially as a critique of Tieken's over-hasty identification of a "Rajasuya" underlying these passages. She concludes: "Das meisterhafte Aufgreifen der im Epos angelegten rituellen Strukturen, ihre teilweise Umge-staltung sowie der Anspielungen auf rituelle Details lassen ebenso auf der Vertrautheit des Verfassers mit der vedischen (Ritual-)Tradition schlieBen. Aber auch hier kann man keine Bezuge zu bestimmten Schulen herstellen, wie man es fur ein in Kerala lokalisierte Schauspiel vielleicht erwarten wurde" (p. 167). The last item, by Heidrun Bruckner, is again not an essay but a full-fledged translation (with copious annotation) of her edition of Bhasa's Karnabhara, published elsewhere. A brief introduction offers, inter alia, an explanation of the play's various titles and their possible meanings, opting for "[Stuck fur der] Burde Karnas" (p. 172).

Each article is accompanied by a bibliography; two brief indices close the volume.


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Author:Gerow, Edwin
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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