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Mahabharata and Ramayana: The Sanskrit Epics and Indian Visual Culture

ARHA 290
Fall 2016 not offered
Certificates: South Asia Studies

This course explores the complex interface between literary texts and visual performance traditions in South Asia, taking as our primary focus the two great Sanskrit epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Both epics will be read in abridged translation to provide familiarity with the overall narrative structure and thematic concerns of the two texts, and a number of excerpts from unabridged translations will be studied in detail to arrive at a fuller understanding of the contents of key episodes and of the style and texture of the two works. The first part of the course addresses a series of questions pertaining to the literary versions of the two epics: What is epic as a genre, and what are its social roles? Do the Mahabharata and Ramayana manifest similarities that permit us to identify a distinctive Indian epic type? What are the connections between these epics and the early history of India? Why, and how, did the written texts we have today come to be redacted from bodies of oral tradition? What further transformations did the Sanskrit epics undergo as they were recast in the form of lyric poetry and translated into various vernacular languages such as Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu? In the second part of the course, we will consider the visual manifestations of the Sanskrit epics in the form of classical Sanskrit plays (known literally as "visual poetry"), later dance-drama forms such as Yakshagana and Kathakali, contemporary religious pageantry such as the Ram Lila, and, finally, the films of the Hindi- and regional-language cinemas. This course requires no prior knowledge of Indian literature, history, or art and may serve as an effective introduction to the culture and civilization of South Asia.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ART
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ARHA-MN)(ARHA)(ARST)(GSAS-MN)(GSAS)

Last Updated on JUL-20-2024
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