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Rama Stories and Shadow Puppets: Kampan's Ramayana in Performance

Stuart Blackburn (Author)
Synopsis In this first book-length study of shadow puppet performance in India – and the first to analyze a folk performance of the Ramayana story in South India – Stuart Blackburn takes the reader behind the scenes to observe the puppeteers of Kerala performing their own unique version of this enduring epic. Blackburn describes the skill and physical stamina of the puppeteers as they perform all night for as many as ten weeks during the festival season. That these performances often take place without an audience forms the starting point for Blackburn’s discussion – one that explores not only this important epic tale and its performance, but also the broader theoretical issues of text, interpretation, and audience.

Blackburn demonstrates how the performers adapt the narrative and add their own commentary to re-create the story from a folk perspective. At a time when the Rama story is used to mobilize political movements in India, the puppeteers’ elaborate recitation and commentary present this controversial tale from another ethical perspective, one that advocates moral reciprocity and balance.

While the study of folk narratives has until now focused on tales, tellers and tellings, this work explores the importance of audience – absent or otherwise. Blackburn’s elegant translations of the most dramatic and pivotal sequences of the story enhance our appreciation of this unique example of performance art.
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About the author

Stuart Blackburn

Stuart Blackburn is Senior Lecturer in the South Asia Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

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Bibliographic information

Title Rama Stories and Shadow Puppets: Kampan's Ramayana in Performance
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.1997
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 195640969, 9780195640960
length xiv+291p., Maps; 23cm.