Genre and the Space of Social Emotion in Nineteenth Century Indian Theater
Farces, comedies, melodrama—among other theatrical genres—all contributed to a multifaceted experience of the theatre in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the only truly “public” space (physical, discursive, and performative) in the nineteenth century, the theater nurtured, interrogated, and reconstituted new subjectivities. Theater created new subjectivities by integrating the emotional understanding of rasa and equating it with concepts of liberal humanism as theorized by Adam Smith and David Hume. It functioned as a marketplace of ideas, where the humor of a farce or the sentiment of a melodrama addressed the most pressing social issues of the day in very different ways. In my talk, I will examine a few different plays—all of which consider companionate marriage and women’s education—from the differing perspectives of various genres. My purpose is not to provide a social commentary on these issues myself. Instead, I take a broader perspective and think about the ways in which the theater functions to facilitate the free exchange of ideas, tempered by genre and emotion.