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Kawi-samaya: Towards an Ecocritical Theory of Kakawin literature

In: Philological Encounters
Authors:
Danielle Chen-Kleinman Department of Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Jerusalem Israel

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Naresh Keerthi Department of Sanskrit Studies, Ashoka University Haryana India

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Abstract

There is not much by way of literary theory for kakawin—the classical literature of Java. This article proposes a semiotic model for the study of belletristic texts in Old Javanese: one that is based on the study of literary commonplaces that we have called kawi-samayas. Given the way the mental world of kakawin is deeply enmeshed with the external, natural world, we focus on the ecoliterary treatment of Kapat, the fourth month in the Javanese calendar. By studying the poetic elaboration of motifs related to Kapat in several kakawin texts, beginning with Monaguṇa’s Sumanasāntaka, we discuss the notions of poetic memory and literary tradition. The idea of poetic memory also helps in chalking out the active role of literary audiences in shaping the allusive and reflexive aesthetics of kakawin literature.

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