Aesthetics, Performativity, & Performative Maya: Imagining Gender in the Textual and Performance Traditions of Telugu South India Restricted; Files Only

Kamath, Harshita Mruthinti (2012)

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In this dissertation, I draw on selected textual and performance traditions in the south Indian language of Telugu to address the broader themes of gender, aesthetics, and performativity. I focus on how gender is imagined and performed in Telugu textual and performance traditions featuring the Hindu deity Krishna, his wife Satyabhama, and her confidante Madhavi. The selected examples analyzed in this dissertation - spanning from Satyabhama's portrayals in classical Telugu literature to the cross-gender performative practices of Kuchipudi brahman male dancers - elaborate a framework for imagining gender that is specific to a particular context in Telugu south India, and yet speaks to broader possibilities for theorizing gender.

The first part of the dissertation articulates an aesthetic gender imagination, specifically drawing on Sanskrit aesthetic theory, classical Telugu literature, and primary textual sources of the south Indian classical dance style of Kuchipudi. The second part of the dissertation introduces the theme of performativity, particularly through the phenomenon of cross-gender impersonation in Kuchipudi dance, to articulate a performative gender imagination that builds upon an aesthetic framework. As part of this performative gender imagination, I raise the seminal concept of 'performative maya' that posits three modes important for imagining and performing gender: relationality, discursivity, and parody.

As the intellectual and theoretical framework that structures this project, I engage with the work of post-structuralist philosopher and feminist scholar Judith Butler, whose articulations on gender performativity provide an interesting counterpoint to the aesthetic and performative enactments of gender in the south Indian cases I examine. I juxtapose my research alongside Butler's theorizations of gender performativity and drag performance in the American context to ask: how can identifying the ways in which gender is imagined and performed in these Telugu textual and performance traditions contribute to broader theoretical discourses, particularly those arising from American feminist scholarship? I conclude by broadening the scope of performative maya to posit an alternative theoretical framework that moves beyond Butler's notion of gender trouble to envision new horizons for imagining gender in Indian and American landscapes.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction: Imagining Gender in Telugu South India...1
Chapter 1: An Aesthetic Gender Imagination in Sanskrit Aesthetic Theory and Classical Telugu Poetry...58
Chapter 2: Tracing the History of Kuchipudi Dance...103
Chapter 3: A Framework of Devotional Aestheticism in the Bhamakalapam Dance Drama...130
Chapter 4: Aesthetics, Impersonation, and Performativity: Constructing Brahman Male Identity in Kuchipudi Village Performance...197
Chapter 5: 'Performative Maya': Gender's Relationality, Discursivity, and Parody...253
Chapter 6: Vempati Chinna Satyam's Bhamakalapam: Female Satyabhamas, Female Krishnas, and the Ambiguously Gendered Role of Madhavi...289
Conclusion: Broadening the Scope of Performative Maya...336

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