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Foucault and the KamasutraThe Courtesan, the Dandy, and the Birth of Ars Erotica as Theater in India$
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Sanjay K. Gautam

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226348308

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226348582.001.0001

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The Courtesan and the Birth of Ars Erotica as Theater

The Courtesan and the Birth of Ars Erotica as Theater

(p.87) 3 The Courtesan and the Birth of Ars Erotica as Theater
Foucault and the Kamasutra

Sanjay K. Gautam

University of Chicago Press

Chapter Three shows how the discourse of ars erotica in the Kāmasūtra historically originated in the figure of the courtesan. It locates the figure of the courtesan along two lines: as a historical figure existing outside the discourse of dharma or moral law grounded in caste and patriarchal identity, and as an actress in the theater of love. Located outside the discourse of moral law (dharma), it was in the figure of the courtesan that the discourse of sexual-erotic pleasure came to acquire legislative autonomy. As the counter figure to the wife, the autonomy of women and sexual-erotic pleasure went hand-in-hand. Kāmasūtra’s use of the words nāyaka or actor and nāyikā or actress is problematized to characterize the partners in an erotic affair. I argue that if the Kāmasūtra left this choice unexplained, then that was because it found them to be self-evident in the life of the courtesan in erotic relationship with her patron, the dandy consort. Through an analysis of the life of courtesan as reflected in the Kāmasūtra, particularly in her role as a wife to her patron, I show how in her life erotics morphed into a form of theater, ars erotica into ars theatrica.

Keywords:   ars erotica, ars theatrica, courtesan, Gaṇika, Kāmasūtra, sexual-erotic pleasure, theater

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