Mahabharata and Ramayana: The Sanskrit Epics and Indian Visual Culture|
Fall 2018 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 Kutiyattam, 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.
||Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Lecture / Discussion||Grading Mode: Graded|
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ARHA-MN)(ARHA)(ARST)(SAST-MN)
John D. Smith, tr. The Mahabharata London & New York: Penguin, 2009.
Arshia Sattar, tr. Valmiki: The Ramayana. New Delhi: Penguin, 2000.
James W. Earl. Beginning the Mahabharata: A Reader¿s Guide to the Frame Stories. Woodland Hills, CA: South Asian Studies Association, 2011
Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. Third edition. London and New York: Routledge, 2012 
W.J. Johnson, tr. The Sauptikaparvan of the Mahabharata: The Massacre at Night. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Somadeva Vasudeva, tr. The Recognition of Shakuntala, by Kalidasa. NYU & JJC Foundation, 2006.
Sheldon Pollock, tr. Rama¿s Last Act, by Bhavabhuti. NYU & JJC Foundation, 2007.
Diana L. Eck, Dar¿an: Seeing the Divine Image in India. Columbia University Press, 1998.
Additional essays, articles, and excerpts from books are also part of the assigned reading. These are all available as PDFs on Moodle.
Babubhai Mistry (Director), Mah¿bh¿rat (Hindi with English subtitles), 1965. DVD. New York, Baba Traders. PN1997 .M347 1990z
Kamalakara Kameshwara Rao (Director), Nartana¿¿la (Telugu with English subtitles), 1963. DVD. San Jose, KAD Entertainment USA. PN1997 .N375 2000z
Shyam Benegal (Director), Kalyug (Hindi with English subtitles), 1980. DVD. Secaucus NJ, Eros Entertainment Inc. PN1997 .K3562 2000
Prakash Jha (Director), Raajneeti (Hindi with English subtitles), 2010. Marina Del Ray CA, UTV Communications. PN1997 .R312 2010
Nina Paley (Director/Animator), Sita Sings the Blues (English), 2008.
|Examinations and Assignments: |
Two short essays; midterm and final exams
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments: |
Regular attendance and reading of all assigned materials. Active participation in class discussions. The Wednesday evening sessions are for required film screenings, but will only be utilized on the four Wednesdays in November and the one in December (11/1, 11/8, 11/15, 11/29, and 12/6).
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