Promiscuous Gods, Gendered Monsters, and Other Urban Beasts: Art in Early India
Upper Division Lecture: B) Asia, E) Transcultural; I) prehistoric-1200. Tricksters. Multiple realities. Androgynes. Animals. Monsters. Evil. Bestiality. Nirvana. Early India is a rich source of creative myths, literary texts, and visual practices that offer a glimpse into the social, cultural, and political complexities of the ancient worlds. How did the ancient city develop into a laboratory for cosmopolitan creativity and thought? How might we fathom the libidinous sexual desires of Hindu gods? How did the philosophy of yoga regulate the body? Could we produce a gendered reading of monsters and the monstrous body through a feminist lens? How might we read the transgressive masculinity of the Buddha’s body? Our examples will be drawn from the first urban formations around the river Indus in present-day India and Pakistan to art and architecture produced up to 1200 CE. We will examine aesthetic conventions, religious ideals, and urban cultures by focusing on the painting, sculpture, and architecture traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Equally important will be artistic exchanges with China, Southeast Asia, and the Roman world through the geo-politics of early empires and global trade.