The Drama of our World: Spectator and Subject in Medieval Kashmir and Early Modern Europe

Radhika Koul

My dissertation, “The Drama of our World: Spectator and Subject in Medieval Kashmir and Early Modern Europe,” is a comparative study on characterizations of the subject, the poet and the dramatic spectator in long-tenth century Kashmir and long seventeenth-century France and England. I argue that while cultural critics continue to credit Descartes, Pascal, and Shakespeare with a dramatic, high stakes “turn” to the thinking subject that is seen to characterize modernity, the work of Kashmiri thinkers such as Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta foreshadowed many of these key points of departure in the history of conceptualizing selfhood and consciousness. Paralleling the so-called “birth” of aesthetics in Europe in the eighteenth century, the Kashmiris had a long tradition of being nuanced theorists of affect, particularly in the context of reading poetry and dramatic spectatorship. That such similarity in questions and themes occurred in the absence of any historical contact between these cultures raises hopes that the similarities in their thought speak to fundamental aspects of the human mind. The dissertation therefore creates a multilingual conversation between the thinkers of these two periods, who wrote in French, Latin, English and Sanskrit, in the hopes of engendering many more multilingual conversations today.

Academic Year
2021-2022
Area of Study