Foucault and the KamasutraThe Courtesan, the Dandy, and the Birth of Ars Erotica as Theater in India

Foucault and the KamasutraThe Courtesan, the Dandy, and the Birth of Ars Erotica as Theater in India

Sanjay K. Gautam

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226348308

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

This book is an historical exploration into the origins of the the Kāmasūtra, a treatise on sexual-erotic pleasure, and the Nātyaśāstra, a treatise on theater, music, dance, and aesthetic pleasure in classical India in engagement with Michel Foucault. It argues that the courtesan together with her two closest male companions, her patron the dandy consort, and her teacher and advisor the dandy guru were at the very origins of these texts universally recognized as two of the mainsprings of culture in classical India. The courtesan, more than her two male associates, embodied in her singular persona the highest and grandest symbols of both erotic and aesthetic pleasure. She holds the historical key to the secrets of how erotics and aesthetics came to be so deeply and abidingly intertwined in classical India. The book takes its start form the contrast between ars erotica or erotic arts and scientia sexualis or the science of sexuality that Foucault placed at the center of his first volume of the History of Sexuality. The Kāmasūtra and its twin, the Natyasastra, are located within the intellectual horizon opened up by this contrast. The book argues that contrary to the common assumption that the discourse erotic-aesthetic pleasure (Kāma) failed to give birth to a larger vision of society, in the Kāmasūtra there is embedded a vision of the city based on art and aesthetic pleasure grounded in love as the necessary historical condition for the possibility of a discourse of erotics.