Hogan, Patrick Colm.
Ethnocentrism and the very idea of literary theory
College Literature v23, n1 (Feb, 1996):1 (14 pages).
COPYRIGHT 1996 West Chester University


Before setting out on this project, I realized that few people in literary theory or comparative literature had much familiarity with non-Western literary theories, and fewer still had research expertise in the field. Nonetheless, I was surprised to find that many of my friends and colleagues not only knew nothing at all about the topic, but actually found it difficult to understand what non-Western literary theory might be. On hearing that College Literature was doing a special issue on "non-Western literary theory before European colonialism," virtually everyone's first reaction was, "Oh, you mean Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak." When I repeated that it was non-Western theory before European colonialism, I was, more often than not, faced with looks of blank incomprehension.

To be fair, this is not entirely a matter of ethnocentrism. After all, there are many people who would be baffled by the phrase "literary theory before Derrida," despite the far more familiar tradition extending from Plato and Aristotle through Longinus, the neo-Classical thinkers, the Romantics, and so on. Nonetheless, blank incomprehension at the simple notion that there was such a thing as non-Eurogenetic literary theory-this is at least in part the result of ethnocentrism; it is at least in part a matter of assuming that theoretical reasoning is somehow peculiarly Western, that abstract reflection must have its source and impetus west of the Black Sea and north of the Mediterranean. It is closely related to the blank incomprehension which greets such phrases as "Classical Indian logic," "Medieval Arabic mathematics," and "Ancient Chinese empirical science and technology."

Of course, there is an extensive tradition of logic in India fully comparable to that developed in Europe (see, for example, Staal). Arabic and Indian mathematics far surpassed European mathematical developments for many centuries (see Aleksandrov 38-41). Chinese empirical science and technology produced outstanding achievements in medicine, communications, and elsewhere. In fact, every culture produces bodies of abstract thought relating to logic, mathematics, empirical science, and art; moreover, every culture with a writing system develops each of these systematically. There is nothing at all uniquely European about any of them. Most importantly for our purposes, India, China, Japan, and the Arab world developed rigorous, extensive, systematic theories of literature that produced long traditions of abstract and illuminating thought about the structure, function, effect, and origin of literature. Indeed, in my view, these traditions surpass pre-omantic European literary theory in virtually every way.

Indian literary theory stretches back several centuries before the Christian era. Indian theorists engaged in a highly elaborated study of verbal ornamentation, cataloging and analyzing a wide range of figures of speech. More importantly, they developed a sophisticated theory of literary semantics, based on the notion of dbvani or suggestion, and a powerful, explanatory theory of aesthetic response, based on the notion of rasa, usually translated as "sentiment." The theories of dbvani and rasa reached their culmination when they were synthesized into a unified theory by the Kashmiri philosophers Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta in the 9th and 10th centuries.

Chinese literary theory too has early origins, its roots reaching to the early works of Confucianism. Indeed, Confucius himself stressed the ethical function of literature. In consequence, literary theory in China has virtually always involved a vigorous assertion of the moral responsibility of the poet. Despite this, Chinese literary theory is largely focussed on formal and aesthetic issues. For example, in his highly influential The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, Liu Hsieh (465-522 C.E.) acknowledges, and even emphasizes, the ethical function of poetry. But he devotes himself primarily to isolating and describing literary genres, discriminating varieties of literary style, and analyzing the nature of metaphor, simile, verbal parallelism, and other aspects of literary language and structure.

Of course, Confucianism is not the only religio-cultural system in China, nor is it the only such system to have had an important impact on literary theory. The study of literature in China has also been influenced by Taoism and Buddhism. This influence leads to a certain degree of mysticism in some Chinese theory; for example, some writers invoke the transcendental experience of the unutterable Tao as the source of good writing and some link aesthetic experience with spiritual enlightenment. And yet Chinese literary theory is perhaps the most concrete and practical of any tradition. For example, the influential third century theorist Lu Chi discusses writing in a mystical idiom and makes reference to the ineffability of inspiration (actually a cross-cultural commonplace of literary theory), but his actual prescriptions for good writing are very concrete: jot down ideas as they come to you (what we now call "freewriting"); then select the relevant ideas and leave aside the others; then give them order and structure; then do a first draft; then revise, deleting any passage that is excessively ornate, adding summary sentences at regular intervals, etc. His advice is very much like that contained in contemporary American textbooks-only it predates such textbooks by 1,700 years; it is more concise; and it is far more beautifully composed.

Japanese theories developed more recently than other Asian traditions. The earliest Japanese writings on literary theory date from the 10th century, and there is an important discussion of theoretical issues by the great 11th century novelist, Lady Murasaki. However, the most influential discussions of literary theory do not take place until somewhat later still, first with the important writings of the great No dramatist Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), then, after a gap, with the reflections of the great haiku poet Basho (1644-1699) and the great Kabuki playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725). The Japanese authors are, perhaps, the most highly metaphorical, and the most esoteric. (Zeami's writings, for example, were addressed only to members of his own acting troupe and to their descendants; they were not published for almost 500 years after his death.) Nonetheless, they articulate notions which are highly suggestive even to the non-initiate.

Basho, for example, centers his poetic theory around the notion of sabi, loneliness-not only the loneliness of people, but the loneliness of all things portrayed in a poem. A quirky notion, perhaps, but one which leads us to look at poetry in a new way, differently from the way we look when thinking of, for example, praise or blame as the primary modes of representing an object. More suggestively still, Zeami focusses on bana or "flower," a combination of understatement and balance. For Zeami, all ugly things in art must present an aspect of beauty; all violent things, an aspect of gentleness, and so on. Indeed, this is very strict in Zeami's formulation-if one action of a character is furious, another must be calm; if a character is decrepit with age, he/she must have some aspect which is youthful (like "an old tree that puts forth flowers" [12]).

Arabic theory begins with the harsh condemnation of poets found in the Qu'ran, but flowers in the analyses of Aristotle's Poetics written by al-farabi (87O-950 C.E.), ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037 C.E.), ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126-1198 C.E.), and other writers of the Islamic "Golden Age" of the 9th to 13th centuries. As is well known, the Arab theorists simply misunderstood Aristotle on a number of points, due primarily to inadequate translations and to the different literary traditions of Greece and the Arab world. However, what is not well known is that they developed a subtle and illuminating analysis of the ethical import of literature, in many ways anticipating Romantic developments in Europe eight centuries later.

Specifically, Arabic theorists emphasized takbyil or "imaginative creation" as the defining feature of literature and saw that imaginative creation as serving, as we might say, to "train sensibility," to develop moral feelings-specifically those of mercy and piety. The sophistication of this view becomes particularly clear when one contrasts it with the didactic moralism of much pre-Romantic European literary theory. In the standard European view (represented, for example, by Philip Sidney), literature inculcates morality not by training sensibility, not by cultivating moral feeling, but by appealing to self-interest. Specifically, in the European conception, literature leads us to act morally by leading us to expect punishment for bad deeds and reward for good deeds; it leads us to choose the path of righteousness out of self-interest-at its best, a sort of spiritualized greed.

In sum, literary theory is not at all confined to the West. Indeed, familiarity with the various histories of literary theory around the world should lead us to ask not why the European tradition is unique in being so rich, but why it is unique in being so impoverished. Indeed, when one looks at the mainstream of European theory before Romanticism, one might even wonder whether Europeans could have thought abstractly about literature on their own; given the facts, one might reasonably argue that they had to be taught abstraction by their contact with non-Western peoples. Of course, Plato and Aristotle would seem to be adequate evidence that abstractive capacity is not alien to the European mind and to European culture. But Plato and Aristotle were not really European-at least, they were no more European than early Indian or Persian writers, who had the same ("Indo-European") ethno-cultural origins. Moreover, intellectually, they were, in effect, part of what we now call the Arab world. They drew their inspiration from North Africa and the Near East (see Chapter I of Bernal; on the related influence of Indian thought, see Sedlar), and their most astute and creative commentators were Muslims-al-farabi, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina, and so on-writing in Arabic, referring to an Arabic canon. We term Plato and Aristotle "European" due merely to historical chance: Islam spread through Turkey, but not across the Aegean Sea to Hellas. Medieval European exegetes and Renaissance European moralists are pale derivatives of what is more appropriately considered a Helleno-Arabic tradition.

As to the rest, prior to colonialism-when non-Western philosophy and art transformed European thinking, providing one major impetus for Romanticism-there was nothing in Western literary theory that seriously approached the depth and complexity of several non-Western literary theories. For example, when we leave aside Aristotle's notion of katharsis, there is virtually no significant treatment of reader-response, certainly nothing like the elaborate psychological analysis put forth by Abhinavagupta. And there is nothing similar to the careful Indian analyses of meaning, related as they were to Indian linguistic theory, which was unrivalled in the West until the writings of Chomsky and his followers in the 1960s.

Nor have Europeans been any more successful in practical advice than in rational explanation. The almost step-by-step approach to writing, worked out by such theorists as Lu Chi and Liu Hsieh, has no real parallel in European theories until the systematic development of composition pedagogy in the last few decades. And, until the present century, there has been little in the Western tradition that even approaches the careful attention to acting technique and preparation that characterize the (15th century) analyses of Zeami. (In his treatises, Zeami gives advice on every aspect of technique and preparation from the actor's personal habits, to the relation between hand gesture and body motion, to research on character profile-e.g., the observation of the manners of nobles before playing the role of a nobleman.)

And yet, despite all this, the traditions of India, China, Japan, and the Arab world, are virtually absent from discussions of literary theory. It is only the European tradition which is widely known and studied, even outside of Europe. The purpose of the present collection is to begin to rectify this perverse situation by presenting a series of essays in comparative literary theory, essays which treat ideas from each of the major non-Western traditions in relation to the more broadly familiar ideas of the Western tradition. Specifically, the first and second essays, by Zhang Longxi and Da'an Pan, focus on Chinese literary theory; the third and fourth, by Mae Smethurst and Earl Miner, concern Japanese theory; the fifth and sixth, by Tanyss Ludescher and Nabil Matar, turn to Arabic theory; and the seventh through tenth, by Winfred Lehmann, Kurt Heidinger, Lalita Pandit, and myself take up Indian ideas.


Broadly speaking, any comparative study may be "sequential" or "parallel;" in other words, it may focus on the historical relations between the traditions being compared or it may set out to study similarities or differences between the traditions insofar as they are not historically related. Sequential study is the study of influence or impact, the examination of ways in which one tradition borrows from or reacts to another. Though widely ignored, and even denied, non-Western theoretical traditions have had a profound impact on Western theoretical reflection. The Arabic Aristotelians (especially Ibn Rushd) were greatly influential in the West, from the Middle Ages onward, and have played an important role in determining the ethical orientation of much Western literary theory-though the Arabs' own treatment of ethics and literature was, again, far more theoretically sophisticated than most subsequent European work. Indian literary theory may have influenced some Romantic theorists, at least indirectly (by way of William Jones' late 18th century translations of Indian literature, his work on Indian music, and similar writings) and it also seems to have had an effect on a number of post-Romantic and modern theorists (e.g., John Dewey). However, these connections remain obscure, primarily because so little research has been done in the area. (The more general influence of Indian philosophical thought on the development of Romanticism, especially German Idealism, is clearer and has been examined more thoroughly [see, for example, Schwab], though far from exhaustively.)

A number of the following essays are at least partially devoted to this sort of sequential study. Both Tanyss Ludescher and Nabil Matar consider the ways in which Arabic commentators took up and altered the ideas of Aristotle. Zhang Longxi and Da'an Pan both address the degree to which Chinese ideas had an impact on modernist poetry, focussing in particular on Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound. Lalita Pandit examines the importance of the Sanskrit theory of dhvani for Jacques Lacan's views on psychoanalytic interpretation. Other essays make passing reference to these issues as well (e.g., Winfred Lehmann refers to the influence of Indian thought on the German Romantics).

Parallel comparative study is, again, the examination of similarities and differences outside of influence. Today, this sort of study, when applied across cultures or historical periods, typically focusses on difference; the one major exception to this rule is linguistics, which (under the guidance of such writers as Noam Chomsky) has tended to focus on universals. There are two ways in which such a study of difference is usually undertaken. One we might call "cultural/cognitive;" the other we might refer to as "historical" or, more generally, "contextual."

The former approach focusses on general cognitive or related differences which, it is argued, broadly distinguish the cultures in question. For example, the common view that Indian culture is mystical and favors mystico-religious theories, while European culture is rational and favors empirical theories, would fall under this category. The contextual approach, in contrast, simply attends to whatever specific historical, linguistic, or other circumstances surround and thus contextualize the theories in question. For example, accounts of the rise or decline of Indian literary theory by reference to economic conditions which fostered a rise or decline in patronage of the arts would fall under this category. Cultural/cognitive differences are enduring and pervade cultures; they include broad strategies of reasoning about the world, widespread tendencies toward religiosity or secularism, etc. Contextual differences are more narrow, more a matter of specific conditions relating to localized and changeable aspects of a culture; they include the institutional conditions in which literary theory was produced, the physical and economic conditions in which theoretical texts were distributed and preserved, and so on. Clearly, there are intermediate cases. However, these are the two poles around which treatments of difference tend to cluster.

Note that both of these poles are "social." We could add a "biological/cognitive" category, if we wished to include biologistic theories. However, these are relatively rare in academic literary study. Moreover, they do not seem to me importantly different from cultural/cognitive theories. In other words, in my view, the two statements, "Indians are non-rational because of their biology" and "Indians are non-rational because of their culture," are far more similar than different. In other words, from my point of view, the crucial division is not between biological and social theories, but between cognitive and contextual theories (and between differential and universalist theories).

In connection with this, it is worth noting that cultural/cognitive theories of difference (like biological/cognitive theories) tend to be what we might call "complementarist." Our internal, mental lexicons (the structure of words and meanings stored in our minds) are in part organized by "semantic fields." For example, we class "Monday," "Tuesday," "Wednesday," etc., together in the semantic field "days of the week." The "complement" of any item in a semantic field is everything other than that item in that semantic field. For example, within the semantic field "weekend," the complement of "Saturday" is "Sunday;" within the semantic field of "week," the complement of "middle of the week" is "beginning of the week" and "end of the week" (while many complements are bi-polar, many are not; the simplistic linguistics of deconstruction should not mislead us into false assumptions on this score).

Cultural difference is typically mapped onto one or more semantic fields, such that the West is identified with one item and non-western cultures are mapped onto items from the complement of that item. Thus if the West is mapped onto "rational," other cultures are likely to be mapped onto "illogical (e.g., superstitious)," "supra-logical (e.g., transcendental)," etc. (The precise nature of any semantic field-how many items it includes, exactly how they are defined, etc.-will vary somewhat across speakers.) This occurs not only in literal, but also in metaphorical mappings. If the West is metaphorically mapped onto "prime of life," non-Western cultures are likely to be mapped onto "old age" (a common characterization of Indian culture) or "childhood" (a common characterization of African culture). (Forms of complementarism in which the non-Western culture is seen as manifesting an "earlier stage" of Western culture-as in the case of Africa, just cited-are particularly common and might be referred to as "originalism.")

Most of the following essays take up issues of difference, primarily contextual. The essays by Tanyss Ludescher and Nabil Matar provide clear cases of contextual analysis. Ludescher, drawing on the work of Vicente Cantarino, treats the historical context in which Arab theorists were writing, while Matar explicates linguistic features of the Arabic text. Da'an Pan and Winfred Lehmann acknowledge universal features across Western and non-Western theories. However, the focus of Da'an Pan's essay is on differences-specifically, differences in the formulation and meaning of Western and Chinese theories of poetry and painting-and Lehmann is concerned primarily with the broad difference in Western and Indian views of language. Moving to a more abstract level, Earl Miner provides a methodological essay, articulating an approach to the study of inter-cultural difference. In contrast with all of these, Zhang Longxi takes up the current focus on difference, both cultural/cognitive and, to a lesser extent, contextual, in order to argue against the broad importance which this focus is unquestioningly granted in most humanistic study today.

Finally, parallel comparative studies need not focus on differences, but may equally seek universals, which is to say, common principles shared by all or most traditions. These universal principles might apply either to the theories themselves or to the different bodies of literatures addressed by the theories. The study of features common to different theoretical traditions is underdeveloped even within (the underdeveloped field of) comparative poetics. This is unfortunate as there are many striking similarities between the major traditions, similarities which require documentation and explanation. For example, most traditions isolate similar literary flaws (such as excessive ornamentation, illogic, and vulgarity); most at some point develop a conflict between "classicism" and "modernity;" most involve debates over whether literature should be defined formally (in terms of, say, verse patterns) or affectively, with the proponents of affect commonly winning out-and so on. It would be valuable to examine the extent, nature, and implication of these commonalities. Da'an Pan and Winfred Lehmann both acknowledge common features of this sort (e.g., Da'an Pan notes the importance of the "sister arts" analogy in both Europe and China). However, this is not a significant concern in any of the following essays.

A more common form of universalist study assumes broad universality in human cognition and aesthetic response, and often broad universality in the structure and features of literature itself. However, it is not greatly concerned with similarities across literary theories. Rather, this form of study is interested in the ways in which literary theories from different traditions may be drawn together to form a more comprehensive theory which treats all traditions more adequately. One might think of the analogy with medicine. Medical researchers assume broad physiological universality. Though there are some differences (e.g., I am told that there are differences in the degree to which whites and blacks are prone to skin cancer), for the most part human physiology is identical. On the other hand, not all medical traditions are identical. While there are features common to a broad range of medical traditions, there are differences also. In recent years, researchers in Western medicine have become interested in drawing new medications and new medical procedures from non-Western medicines in order to produce a more comprehensive medical science and thus a more effective medical practice for everyone. The cross-cultural synthesis of literary theories involves a similar project.

Several of the essays make reference to this approach. For example, Lehmann begins his essay by stressing that "in their diversity, the literary commentaries in the South Asian tradition include views whose differences from those of Western critics may provide greater perspective and improved insights into literary activities than those derived from continued restriction to Western sources." This sort of synthetic work is central to Pandit's essay, which develops and furthers Lacan's connection between Sanskrit poetic theory and psychoanalysis. My own essay is devoted entirely to this approach, arguing that Abhinavagupta's ideas allow us a way of extending cognitive science to literary study, while cognitive science allows us a way of systematizing and clarifying Abhinavagupta's ideas. Mae Smethurst and Kurt Heidinger take up this approach also, though with a slight difference. Smethurst uses the theories of Zeami to explain the aesthetic value of non-Aristotelian Greek drama, and Heidinger offers Abhinavagupta's theory of language as an alternative to Derridaean deconstruction.

More exactly, the collection begins with Zhang Longxi's "What is Wen and Why Is It Made So Terribly Strange?;" a thorough criticism of both forms of differentialism. Though he does not employ these terms, Zhang effectively isolates the tendency toward complementarism and originalism in much Sinology. "The cultural differences between the Chinese and the Western traditions," he explains, "become manifest in a set of contrasts or dichotomies: Western fictionality versus Chinese factuality, Western creativity versus Chinese naturalness," and so on. Zhang argues persuasively that, whatever the spirit in which these views are offered, they adhere closely to the old colonialist ideology of the dichotomous nature of East and West. Moreover, these views are demonstrably false. For example, "the notion that Chinese poetry is a factual account of real experience is so fragile and untenable that it is easily disproved by the first instance of hyperbolic expressions so frequently found in Chinese as in any other poetry." (For a related analysis of views on Indian literature, see my "Beauty.") Zhang is certainly right that cultural relativism is dominant in humanistic circles today, and he has powerfully questioned the validity and value of that doctrine.

Da'an Pan takes up a different approach. Treating the relation between poetry and painting, he notes both "universal" and "culture-bound" aspects, but focusses primarily on differences. In the course of this discussion, Da'an Pan takes up two fascinating ideas from Chinese literary theory: "forgetting words after getting meaning" and "emotion-scene fusion." His discussion of "forgetting words" contextualizes and explicates the concept valuably. However, there is one point that might be added here. The Chinese theorists were deeply concerned with the internalization of rules in writing and reading literature. To create literature or to appreciate it, we cannot be concentrating on or even aware of the principles which guide successful composition or interpretation. These rules must be fully internalized. This, I think, is the main point about "forgetting words."

The idea may be clarified by way of an analogy. Consider playing a musical instrument. If I am playing the piano, I cannot be thinking "Let's see-that note means that I hit the 'C#' which is located at such-and-such a place." When I am learning to play the piano, I actually do something along these lines. But, in order to be a successful pianist, I have to achieve "fluency" in reading annotation, unreflectively turning that annotation into appropriate fingering, etc. The Chinese theorists stress that the successful writer must have this sort of fluency with words, emblems, and ideas-otherwise, he/she will never write a successful poem. To "forget words" is to have complete command of all their implications, to be able to draw on them immediately and unreflectively as one needs to do so, for subtle effects of sound, image, and sense. Indeed, the reader must have similar fluency. We appreciate a literary work insofar as we experience its meanings, emblems, and so on, directly. Our aesthetic experience is diminished insofar as the work becomes a cryptogram that we have to decode.

Finally, this is closely related to emotion/scene fusion, for it is precisely the fusion of emotion into a scene that makes it worth depicting and worth experiencing, and it is precisely fluency or "forgetting" that allows an author to depict such a fusion and a reader to experience it. What one loses when one has to decode is precisely the direct experience of an emotion which has been fused with the scene.

Beginning the Japanese section, Mae Smethurst takes up a universalist/synthetic approach, considering Aeschylus' The Persians in light of Zeami's aesthetics. The problem Smethurst sets herself is to explain the value and impact of Aeschylus' play, given that it so thoroughly violates Aristotelian principles. Smethurst provides a valuable analysis of The Persians, in particular, but her approach is clearly generalizable, as her title ("The Appeal of a Plotless Tragedy") indicates. Her essay suggests that Zeami's ideas would prove useful to our explanation and appreciation of much plotless writing-including, for example, such post-modern work as that of Samuel Beckett (which was in part inspired by Zeami's plays). Moreover, Zeami's ideas on performance offer new perspectives on staging and acting in a wide range of Western dramas, as other scholars have discussed (see Fujita and Pronko).

Earl Miner's "An Allegory on the Banks of the Nile and Other Hazards of Intercultural Literary Comparison" begins by suggesting that "Intercultural literary study ... may be fundamentally impossible." The problem he raises is methodological: How do we engage in such comparison? Miner suggests that we might begin by drawing ever wider circles of comparison, encompassing at each stage a greater number of nations and regions. For example, we might begin with two English lyrical poets, comparing them with two French lyrical poets, then introducing two Chinese lyrical poets for a third stage of comparison, and so on. Miner maintains that comparing Shelley and Keats makes us think that Shelley and Keats are very different, but once we compare Shelley and Keats with Li Po and Tu Fu, our perspective changes: we see that the English writers are very much alike, that the Chinese writers are very much alike, and that the Chinese writers are very different from the English writers. Indeed, he argues, this may be extended to larger regions: "The Japanese poets who seem so different from the Chinese when only those two East Asian literatures are in question, become comparable-more alike-when compared with the European poets."

It is not entirely clear that we are justified in such a priori certainty of finding broad East/West differences. But Miner's suggestions are nonetheless valuable, for the sort of approach he advocates can show universality just as readily as it can show regional or national difference. For example, Smethurst indicates that, from one important perspective, Zeami and Aeschylus are related in ways that Aeschylus and Sophocles are not. Indeed, this could be extended. I could certainly see an argument that, in at least some works, Beckett, Aeschylus, and Zeami are similar and may be contrasted with Arthur Miller, Sophocles, and Chikamatsu. Shakespeare in his late works is far more like Kalidasa or Bhavabhuti (see Pandit "Patriarchy") than he is like Marlowe or Webster. There are ways in which Terence's cynicism places him with the Sanskrit dramatist Visakadatta, both contrasting with the Sanskrit writer Harsa, who could in turn be paired with Plautus. Even though they run counter to the differentialist presumptions of Miner's essay, these are the sorts of illuminating comparisons to which Miner's methodological suggestions draw our attention-which is precisely what such suggestions should do.

Tanyss Ludescher begins the Arabic section by undertaking to explain why the Arab theorists were far more concerned than Aristotle with a specifically poetic syllogism. Ludescher recounts Vicente Cantarino's analysis of the historical development of the Qu'ranic injunctions against poets and the subsequent historical impact of these injunctions. Adding to this a discussion of the loose stanzaic structure of Arabic poetry and of Arabic practices of anthologization, she is able to present an account of the Arab theorists' concern with the syllogism. Thus Ludescher provides a context for the Arabic focus on a "poetic syllogism" and accounts for its far greater prominence in the Arab tradition than in the European tradition, without positing any broad cultural/cognitive differences. She also gives a brief summary of other important concepts in Arabic poetics, including the treatment of ethics and imagination.

Nabil Matar takes up the theme of imagination in greater detail. Like Ludescher's, his approach is contextual, though his focus is philological rather than historical. Specifically, Matar engages in a careful exegesis of Alfarabi's Arabic, teasing out the meanings of his different terms relating to imagination. In doing this, Matar emphasizes the subtle ethical function of literature as envisioned by Alfarabi. Moreover, he stresses the view of the Arabic theorists that imagination is, on the whole, more powerfully motivational than reasoning: "Imagination, therefore, for Alfarabi motivates action ... reason may indicate one thing, but if imagination indicates its opposite, the individual might still choose to follow what his imagination dictates: so although the imagination might project a falsity, there is a kind of suspension of belief as the individual acts in accordance with that falsity-and in contradiction to reason." Matar follows this analysis with a translation of Alfarabi's seminal "Treatise on Poetry."

Winfred Lehmann opens the section on India with a valuable overview of Sanskrit literary theory, distinguishing and explaining the categories of dosa or flaws, guna or stylistic devices, alamkara or ornaments, and rasa or sentiments. In connection with this, he stresses the relation of Sanskrit poetics to Sanskrit linguistics and notes that, in part as a result of this link, "the Indian literary tradition is far more analytic than the western." Finally, he emphasizes the important connection between language and divinity in Hindu thought. As he explains, "At the Brahmanic level ... there is no difference between referent and reference, for at that level the word is equal to reality." Or, in the words of the fifth century Sanskrit writer Bhartrhari, "Grammar is the door to salvation, the remedy of poor language/the purifier of all the sciences-it illuminates all of them." This religious context spurred the development of Sanskrit linguistics, and thus contributed importantly to the development of Sanskrit poetic theory.

In some ways, Heidinger deals with the same issues as Lehmann, but, so to speak, from the opposite side. Specifically, Heidinger sets out to critique Derrida's critique of the "transcendental signified." Derrida's view is that there is never any point at which one might find an end to differance. First of all, there is no limit to the simultaneous differences which structure definitional meaning ("Tuesday" is defined by opposition to "Wednesday," "Thursday," etc., which are themselves defined by opposition to one another, and by opposition to "weekend," "month," "hour," and so on). Secondly, there is no conclusion to the temporal deferrals through which word-meaning is built into larger structures (the sequence of words in a sentence leads to a sequence of sentences in an utterance, which leads to a sequence of utterances in a dialogue, and so on). In short, for Derrida's there is no final or definitive point of linguistic fixity. Heidinger's argument is that, from Abhinavagupta's point of view-in which language fuses ultimately with divine being-derrida's arguments are mere spume on the vast ocean of cosmic illusion. Writing in the Nietzschean style of "doing philosophy with a hammer," Heidinger does not so much affirm Abhinavagupta's ideas as offer Abhinavagupta as a sort of foil to Derrida, a contrasting place from which one might, so to speak, deconstruct the deconstructer.

Pandit too focuses on Abhinavagupta, and notes the relation between language and divinity in Hindu thought. However, her concern is with the secular world of literature and psychotherapy. In his extremely influential "Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis," long considered a sort of manifesto of his thought, Jacques Lacan cites Abhinavagupta and directly connects his own concern for "a return to the use of symbolic effects in a renewed technique of interpretation in analysis" with "what the Hindu tradition teaches about dhvani" (82). Starting from Lacan's discussion of dhvani, Pandit considers in detail the relation between dhvani and Lacan's seminal concept of the full word. Pandit's purpose in undertaking this discussion, however, is not simply to draw out the ways in which Lacan was influenced by Sanskrit aesthetics, interesting and important as this topic is in itself. Her essay aims primarily to explicate and apply the notion of dhvani in several relevant varieties-beyond those with which Lacan was familiar-and to extend both the theory of dhvani and that of the full word into a broader and more detailed theory which can be applied to works of Western and non-Western literatures. In other words, her project is one of synthesis based on universalism.

In the final essay, I too take up Abhinavagupta's views on rasa and dhvani, along with recent theories of memory storage and access developed in empirical psychology and cognitive science. My argument is that Abhinavagupta's ideas have deep affinities with recent work on cognition and memory. However, the topics and goals of the Sanskrit theorists and cognitive scientists are so different that each can be used to extend and develop the other. The consequence of this synthesis and extension is, I hope, a more encompassing theory of aesthetic response which could provide a worthwhile starting point for a research program in this area.

In the afterword, Lalita Pandit takes up the various theories discussed in these essays and indicates some of the ways in which they can be put to productive use in the classroom. Despite the barbarity of current nationalist politics, and the unabashed racism of much current writing about (i.e., against) multiculturalism, we can expect curricula to be increasingly multicultural over the next decade, primarily because the student body is likely to be increasingly culturally diverse and to demand more diverse offerings. The new Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces is already a response to that demand. Basing her discussion on this important collection, Pandit examines how a familiarity with non-Western literary theory can help directly with teaching non-Western-and, indeed, Western-literature.

Again, non-Western literary theory is currently absent from our classrooms, our scholarship, our textbooks, our dialogue on literary and cultural issues. This is unfortunate for many reasons. Perhaps most obviously, it is unfortunate for ethical and political reasons, for it fosters European ethnocentrism, contributes to the suppression of most of the world's cultures, and re-enforces the ideological view that Europe is the sole or primary origin of all abstract thought and general reasoning. But, no less importantly, it deprives us all of the intellectual incisiveness, ethical subtlety, and sheer beauty of theories that other great cultures labored for millenia to produce. To continue ignoring the theoretical traditions of India, China, Japan, and the Arab World-as well as other theoretical developments not covered in this collection-is not only narrow-minded but imprudent, for it not only supresses most of the world's contributions to this field of study, but, in doing so, it at the same time denies all of us great sources of both intellectual challenge and intellectual pleasure.


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Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles