Sharing a single seat: The poetics and politics of male intimacy in the vikramāṅkakāvya [Book Review]

Journal of Indian Philosophy 38 (5):485-501 (2010)
Abstract
In this essay, I trace the enabling conditions for the major statement of the subversive subtext in Bilhaṇa’s Vikramāṅkadevacarita (VDC) by unpacking the operation of the work’s patent, eulogistic text. In particular, I will explore the place given to the depiction of male intimacy as a poetic substitute or simulacrum for the political alliances central to Vikramāditya’s coming to the throne, as described in the mahākāvya’s fourth through sixth sargas . My intention in focusing on the intense friendships between men is to highlight a significant rhetorical strategy of Bilhaṇa’s, which allowed the poet both to introduce and to buffer the poem’s most explicit statement of his skepticism towards royal power. It is this charged affective theme—one that occupied only a tenuous position within the regnant critical discourse of literary emotion at the time—that sets up Bilhaṇa’s most powerful and explicit denunciation of kingship. The explicit theme of royal praise and the subtext of its denunciation can thus be seen as contrapuntally related, which goes some way towards explaining how the court poet was able to successfully carry off his potentially incendiary literary project
Keywords Bilhaṇa   Kāvya  Friendship  Politics  Intimacy
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