Prof. Sheldon Pollock holds that the reader of the Ramayana has no means of knowing what Rama feels or whether he feels and, furthermore, 'Rama's 'true feelings' will remain secret, properly so, for they are quite irrelevant to the poem's purposes.'
In his essay on Bhatta Nayaka, we get a clue as to why Pollock might maintain so grotesque a viewIf it makes no difference whether 'rasa is engendered, inferred or manifested in the character' then why do Porn movies have a sound-track of groans and moans? Why does Jackie Chan take the trouble to do his own stunts and tell us about it? Why do we feel Amy Winehouse's singing is in a different class to Kylie Minogue's? No doubt, there are people who make no such distinction. They will beat their meat even if the porn actors show no enthusiasm for their joyless labor. The existence of this class of people enables bad Art to survive. But, theirs is a damaged subjectivity. If everybody was like that Society would be dysfunctional. The Evolutionary Stable Strategy is that they remain a minority.
Now the Mimamsa ritualists had a certain axe to grind, a fact Pollock very well knows, yet he himself, without himself practicing those rituals or even coveting the ends that those rituals purport to attain, affirms precisely the same view-point.
The answer, I suppose, is that there's something missing in his make-up. The reason people like the Ramayana is because they feel for the characters. The characters suffer and the reader feels empathy. Human Society, for reasons that Evolutionary Psychology explains, contains a majority which has this quality and seeks to further develop it. If the minority, who lack this quality, got dictatorial power and re-wrote every book according to their own taste- the vast majority of people would stop reading because there would be no good books. Literature would be produced by the sort of Computers Orwell describes in 1984.
What, I wonder, is the 'unique kind of experience and knowledge' one can gain from the Ramayana if its characters are considered not to have any feelings? Well, one invaluable nugget is driving instructions for flying cars and another is how to build a bridge to Sri Lanka and a third is Pollock's hieratic model of Hindu Kingship.
I suppose, there were and perhaps still are some people who believe in the flying car and the bridge to Sri Lanka and so on. But we know them to be idiots. When Subramaniyam Swamy mentions the Ram Setu, we know he is being hypocritical and that his assertions in this matter are wholly strategic and not at all alethic.
Initially, I gave Pollock the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps his writing on the Ramayana was a politically correct response to the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign. But, his essay on Bhatta Nayaka suggests a more alarming possibility. He just isn't hard-wired to 'get' Literature. Had he stuck to Latin and Greek, he'd have been found out. Indology, on the other hand, comes under the rubric of, not the Humanities, but the sub-Humanities. Good thing too. If they just lower the bar a little further- us Economists can take over. Amartya Sen is already half way there. Come to think of it Subramaniyam Swamy was once an Economist. OMG it's already happening! AAAAARGH! This is like the time I watched all the Planet of the Apes films back to back while high on cough syrup. No, Helena Bonham Carter, I don't want a hummer. Never thought I'd say it- but there it is.