Rasas and Modes   Leave a comment

I’m starting to wonder if I can think of the composition of FW in terms of rasa theory. This Indian literary theory is expressed in the third century text, Natyasastra, which is ascribed to Bharatamuni (Indian Literary Criticism 3).  Rasa theory is only a small part of the Natyasastra, a compendium of performed arts: drama, music, dance (ibid). This is an extract from G.K. Bhatt’s 1975 English translation:

“On Natya and Rasa: Aestheics of Dramatic Experience

… The natya (in fact) is depiction and communication pertaining to the emotions of the entire triple world:

Occasionally piety, occasionally sport, occasionally wealth, occasionally peace of mind, occasionally laughter, occasionally fighting, occasionally sexual passion, occasionally slaughter;

the pious behaviour of those who practice religion, the passion of those who indulge in sexual pleasure, the repression of those who go by a wicked path, the act of self restrain of those who are disciplined… The eight rhetorical Sentiments (Rasas) recognised in drama and dramatic representation are named as follows: the Erotic, Comic, Pathetic, Furious, Heroic, Terrible, Odious, Marvelous” (4-5).

My plan is to finish these first recordings by the 2nd of February (Joyce’s birthday); and then start re-listening to them in order to annotate my text up at points where I find myself shifting to read with a particular rasa.

When I’ve done that, I’ll reconsider my hunch that there might be a montage of emotional modes in FW, somewhat akin to Sergei Eisenstein’s audiovisual diagrams that relate “the plastic element of movement and the movement of the music” in his films (Barber, A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology 178-179).

FW privileges soundscape over narrative. But, what I will call the “sound frames” of FW seem to modulate from one emotional state to another as I read. In fact the “sound frames” seem to function in a manner similar to musical modes.

I’ll explain what I mean about modes and emotions:

Today, the difference between major and minor, with a flattened third in the minor,  is the closest we have to modes in classical Western music. However, in the eleventh century there were eight medieval church modes, as a consequence of Boethius’s (480-524/26) and Guido’s ( 991- after 1033) treaties (A History of Western Music 27; 51). With Boethius compiling his treaties from earlier Greek sources including those of Nicomachus, Euclid, Aristoxenus, Pythagorus, and Ptolemy’s Harmonics (27).

As a result of such research, by the fifteenth century Marsillius Ficinus (1433-1499)  was not alone in believing that “music could alter the cognitive faculties of the soul, transform the passions and even privilege the communication of the spirit with the immaterial realties of the world soul” (Boccadoro, “Medicine, Mathematics and Music 105). However, it was he who related the eight medieval church modes, to their corresponding humours, colours and astral bodies, eg:

“Mixolydian (G-D-G) = Saturn = Melancholy = Opaque Colour of mud = Partially lascivious and gay

Phrygian (E-C-E) = Mars = Anger = Colour of Fire = Severe, excited, suited to choleric beings, elatis suberbis, asperis.” (118)

Now, this table reminds me of the Linati Schema for Ulysses…

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