University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2014
“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
— Bertolt Brecht.
Time: does art exist within it, or does art create it? Time might initially seem to be a straightforward and unproblematic phenomenon, but the closer we look at certain forms of art, music and literature, the more we begin to see how they actually shape our experience or awareness of time. Stories and poems, for example, shape our understanding of time through the structures of their narratives and through their modes of performance. Visual art has the potential to represent events diachronically or synchronical– a potential very effectively exploited by South Asian painters and sculptors. Finally, music is not an object but rather an event in time– and as such can mark, measure, extend or contract time in fascinating ways.
The readings for this session explore the ways in which art both exists within and shapes time. Regula Qureshi’s article “Exploring Time Cross-Culturally” on Sufi qawwālī raises interesting questions about how time is experienced during the performance of religious singing in the Sufi mystical tradition of Islam. The short section from Kenneth Bryant’s work on Surdas’s poems about Krishna, Poems for a Child God, asks us to reorient our understanding of poetry from ‘text’ to ‘event’, and shows us how such an approach can illuminate how a poet achieves marvelous effects. Molly Aitken’s “Parataxis and the Practice of Reuse” touches upon questions of how time and narrative are represented in paintings from the early modern period (some of the same paintings we saw earlier in Session 11 and Session 12 on visual aesthetics). The excerpts from G.H.R. Tillotson’s Paradigms of Indian Architecture explore how the built environment can shape our sense of time as we move through it, especially when that architecture also includes representative and symbolic forms (including sculpture, but also repetition, scale, etc.). Finally, Paul Ricoeur’s seminal work Time and Narrative provides a point of comparison from the European tradition.