The Aesthetic through and beyond Capital: Speculations on Martin Wickramasinghe’s Gamperaḷiya and Virāgaya

Praveen Tilakaratne, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka


This article addresses the question of how one may historicize aesthetic change, especially in the context of the third-world novel, by conceiving the aesthetic as a historically contingent category that mediates between the singularity of form and the particularity of content. This question is supplemented by a discussion of the aesthetic modes of two Sinhala novels: Martin Wickramasinghe’s Gamperaḷiya (1944) and Virāgaya (1956). The method of historicizing that is proposed involves two interpretative levels that follow the contours of Dipesh Chakrabarty’s categories of History 1, or history posited by capital, and History 2, or histories outside the life processes of capital. While History 1 enables a totalizing interpretation which allows Gamperaḷiya and Virāgaya to be thought of as embodying a narrative/realist aesthetic and affective/modernist aesthetic respectively, History 2 enables a close scrutiny of specific aspects of aesthetic mediation and play which complicate History 1’s totalizing and often Eurocentric thrust.


Aesthetics; Martin Wickramasinghe; History 1, History 2; Marxist theory; postcolonial theory

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