Andrew Ollett’s remarks on the location of affective responses

An important historical shift in Indian aesthetics is from concern with the character as the locus of emotional responses (anubhāvas) to the spectator or “audience” as the locus. Andrew Ollett provides a concise reflection on that shift.

In his Ten Forms (Daśarūpa), the tenth-century scholar Dhanañjaya takes the rather counterintuitive position that the “responses” (anubhāvas) of traditional aesthetic theory—typically the outward physical signs of an emotion, such as trembling, crying, and so on—belong to the reader or spectator, and not to the character who is represented (the anukārya). This position follows the revolution in aesthetic theory, as Sheldon Pollock has recently described it, introduced by Bhaṭṭa Nāyaka, the ninth-century theorist who sought to understand how aesthetic response is produced in us. Dhanañjaya’s commentator Dhanika makes it very clear that the standard “affective responses” are actually to be understood as our responses to reading a work of literature, or watching a play: it is we who tear up, gasp, and so on. But this was a relatively new idea, and according to the older theory, it is the character—or even the actor who represents her—who is thought to have these “affective responses.”

He continues on his own blog, here.


About Matthew Dasti

Matthew R. Dasti is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bridgewater State University.

One Reply to “Andrew Ollett’s remarks on the location of affective responses”

  1. Apart from the scholastic debate ‘who owns the affective response’ let us examine our own experience. when one is watching a play or reading a piece of literature or listening a music one identifies oneself with the character and enjoys the rasa. At the same time the actor also identifies himself with the character otherwise his acting would not be real-like.
    In response to the so-called new theory the instance displayed is that of cup in which the juice is served which unfortunately does not taste the juice. It is the person who drinks, enjoys the taste. Let us think of a paper cup or plastic cup which contains the juice. The cup is said to have the affective response otherwise it would not have caused the toxic effect.
    The experience is very complex and cannot be logically defined so it is called indescribable.
    Finally the experience is indescribable because the audience enjoys the rasa whether it is of love or hate or anger etc. But in real life one does not enjoys the rasa in such situation.

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