Vandana Singh is currently guest-blogging over at Ecstatic Days, and she linked to this piece on the navarasas, or nine emotions — “emotions” being a simplification for a concept described more fully in that piece, since it includes both the causes as well as the effects of feelings. It’s a neat structure, I think, and in reading through it, I found myself placing each rasa in the context of the Bollywood movies I’ve seen, since that’s the most familiar Indian frame I have. (I have heard some Indian music, and read the Ramayana, but those aren’t fresh enough in my memory.)
In particular, I like adbhuta, which makes me think of the “sense of wonder” we often say is at the heart of SF and fantasy. The description given there is more focused on the mystical, but I can easily imagine it stretching to cover the wonder SF evokes with its technological flights — as well as things like human beings walking on the moon. Those are, after all, part of “the world and all its wonders.”
This makes me want to build a whole Western genre system around the rasas. Speculative fiction would be the genre of adbhuta, while romance, clearly, is the genre of shringara. You’d get two types of horror for bhibatsya and bhaya — splatter and thriller — hasya for comedies, which don’t get their own genre in the bookstore but certainly do in the theatre . . . I’d probably put litfic with karuna. Adventure fiction, drawn from across traditional genre boundaries, would be veera. That leaves me with rowdra and shanta, and the latter may not have a genre, unless it’s self-help books. (Which sounds more derogatory than I intend. They just set out to evoke shanta, as fiction generally doesn’t.) Not sure what to do with rowdra. Apocalyptic fiction? I’m not sure where mysteries would generally end up, either. Scattered across many, perhaps, dependent on whether they set out to scare you (bhaya) or make you curious (adbhuta) or what.
It’s an interesting lens, anyway. And I like the adbhuta connection, at least.