In Production of Presence: What Meaning Can’t Convey (2003), Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht suggests that through their unremitting emphasis on hermeneutics, modern critics have ignored the ineffable, bodily aspect of aesthetic experience that he calls “presence.” In the realm of poetics, such a theory implies a dissociation between the hermeneutic activity of a poem and a reader’s emotional response to it. Two aestheticians from medieval Kashmir, Ānandavardhana, c. ninth century CE, and his tenth-century commentator Abhinavagupta, propose a cause of poetic beauty and aesthetic effect that is still grounded in meaning: dhvani. They delineate how, in certain poetic conditions, dhvani leads to rasa, roughly “aesthetic enjoyment,” an experience at once mental and visceral. Whereas the poetic forms the Indian aestheticians discuss go beyond the lyric per se, this paper brings some of the most critical aspects of their poetics in conversation with current critical overtures as well as resonant poetry we might be more familiar with today in order to inspire further work on comparative literary aesthetics and “world criticism.”

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