11 Dec 15

The Kamasutra, composed in the third century CE, is the world’s most famous textbook of erotic love. For its time, it was astonishingly sophisticated and, even today, there is nothing like it. Yet it is all but ignored as a serious work in its country of origin—sometimes taken as a matter of national shame rather than pride—and in the rest of the world it is a source of amused amazement, inspiring magazine articles that offer “mattress-quaking sex styles” such as “the backstairs boogie” and “the spider web.” University of Chicago Divinity School professor Wendy Doniger, one of the world’s foremost authorities on ancient Indian texts, seeks to restore the Kamasutra to its proper place in the Sanskrit canon. She emphasizes its landmark status in the oevre of India’s secular literature, as a text that emphasizes grooming and etiquette, the study and practice of the arts, and discretion and patience in conducting affairs. Doniger describes how its social and psychological narratives also display surprisingly modern ideas about gender and role-playing, female sexuality, and homosexual desire.