This book examines the revolution in Sanskrit poetics initiated by the ninth-century Kashmiri Anandavardhana. Anandavardhana replaced the formalist aesthetic of earlier poeticians with one stressing the unifunctionality of literary texts, arguing that all components of a work should subserve a single purpose—the communication of a single emotional mood (rasa). Attention was redirected from formal elements toward specific poems, viewed as aesthetically integrated wholes, thereby creating new literary critical possibilities.
Anandavardhana’s model of textual coherence, along with many key analytic concepts, are rooted in the hermeneutic theory of the Mimamsakas (Vedic Exegetes). Like Anandavardhana, the Mimamsakas made the unifunctionality of texts their most basic interpretive principle.
While Anandavardhana’s teleological approach to textual analysis gained rapid acceptance among the Kashmiri poeticians, another aspect of his theory became controversial. He argued that rasa, and certain other poetic meanings, cannot be conveyed by recognized semantic processes, and therefore postulated a new semantic function, dhvani (“suggestion”) to account for them. The controversy over this “suggestion” rapidly became the central topic in poetics, to the exclusion of teleologically based criticism. While dhvani ultimately gained universal acceptance among Sanskrit poeticians, the conflict over its existence, ironically, marginalized Anandavardhana’s preferred approach to poetic analysis.