More than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India

More than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India

by David Shulman


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From the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the major cultures of southern India underwent a revolution in sensibility reminiscent of what had occurred in Renaissance Italy. During this time, the imagination came to be recognized as the defining feature of human beings. More than Real draws our attention to a period in Indian history that signified major civilizational change and the emergence of a new, proto-modern vision.

In general, India conceived of the imagination as a causative agent: things we perceive are real because we imagine them. David Shulman illuminates this distinctiveness and shows how it differed radically from Western notions of reality and models of the mind. Shulman's explication offers insightful points of comparison with ancient Greek, medieval Islamic, and early modern European theories of mind, and returns Indology to its rightful position of intellectual relevance in the humanities.

At a time when contemporary ideologies and language wars threaten to segregate the study of pre-modern India into linguistic silos, Shulman demonstrates through his virtuoso readings of important literary works—works translated lyrically by the author from Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam—that Sanskrit and the classical languages of southern India have been intimately interwoven for centuries.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674059917
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/09/2012
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,039,461
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

David Shulman is Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Table of Contents

Part I Theorizing Imagination

1 Mind-Born Worlds 3

2 Poets, Playwrights, Painters 24

3 Singularity, Inexhaustibility, Insight: What Sanskrit Poeticians Think Is Real 51

4 Poetics 2: Illumination 80

5 Toward a Yoga of the Imagination 109

Part II The Sixteenth-Century Revolution

6 Early Modern Bhavana 147

7 Simantini: Irrevocable Imaginings 155

8 Nala in Tenkasi and the New Economy of Mind 175

9 True Fiction 205

10 The Marriage of Bhavana and Best 232

11 Toward Conclusion 267

Notes 289

Bibliography 313

Index 327

What People are Saying About This

Charles Hallisey

A work of great learning, insight, and maturity. Shulman displays the pleasures that come with the reading of Indian literature as he works from the inside out to teach us what imagination is and what it entails. More Than Real is a tour de force that moves confidently through literary and religious texts and through South Indian languages, listening carefully to learn about something that we already care about, what imagination teaches us about ourselves and the world we live in.
Charles Hallisey, Harvard University

Yigal Bronner

More than Real provides a thorough, coherent, and extremely perceptive historical analysis of the nature and inner workings of imagination in India. It is hard to compare Shulman's work with any other book because nobody has ever tried to accomplish anything remotely similar. I doubt very much that a comparable history of imagination in the West or the Muslim civilization exists, although More than Real lays the foundations for such work. The book is exhilarating, and readers will learn something new from it not only about South Asian civilization but also about themselves.
Yigal Bronner, University of Chicago

Sheldon Pollock

With extraordinary range across languages, texts, and thought worlds, but with a special attention to south India in the early modern period, David Shulman shows us how the imagination works and how it has changed across space and time: in one place as pathological, for example, in another as therapeutic; at one time fictive and hence false, in another, fictive and hence real. This is mind-opening--and astonishingly imaginative--scholarship.
Sheldon Pollock, Columbia University

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