Mahabharata and Ramayana: The Sanskrit Epics and Indian Visual Culture|
Spring 2022 not offered
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)
Walter J. Ong, ORALITY AND LITERACY: THE TECHNOLOGIZING OF THE WORD. London and New York: Routledge, 2000
James W. Earl, BEGINNING THE MAHABHARATA: A READER'S GUIDE TO THE FRAME STORIES. South Asian Studies Association, 2011.
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, DARSAN: SEEING THE DIVINE IMAGE IN INDIA. Columbia University Press, 1998.
and the following articles and excerpts (available on Moodle):
"The Lists of Contents" , "Puloman" , and "The Descent of the First Generations" , from J.A.B. van Buitenen, tr. The Mahabharata, I. The Book of the Beginning.
John D. Smith, "Old Indian: The two Sanskrit Epics" , in Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry. Volume One: The Traditions. ed. A.T.Hatto.
A. K. Ramanujan and Edwin Gerow, "Indian Poetics" , ch. 3 of The Literatures of India, an Introduction. ed. Edward C. Dimock et al.
Sheldon Pollock, "India in the Vernacular Millennium: literary culture and polity, 1000-1500".
Farley P. Richmond, "Characteristics of Sanskrit Theatre and Drama" , in INDIAN THEATRE: TRADITIONS OF PERFORMANCE, ed. Farley Richmond, Darius Swann, and Phillip Zarilli.
Philip Lutgendorf, "Words Made Flesh: the Banaras Ramlila as Epic Commentary" , in Boundaries of the Text: Epic Performances in South and Southeast Asia. Edited by Joyce B. Flueckiger and Laurie J. Sears.
Philip Lutgendorf, "Bending the Bharata: Two Uncommon Cinematic Adaptations," INDIAN LITERATURE AND POPULAR CINEMA, ed. Heidi Pauwels.
Films to be studied:
Babubhai Mistry (Director), Mahabharat (Hindi with English subtitles), 1965. DVD. New York, Baba Traders.
Kamalakara Kameshwara Rao (Director), Nartanasala (Telugu with English subtitles), 1963. DVD. San Jose, KAD Entertainment USA.
Shyam Benegal (Director), Kalyug (Hindi with English subtitles), 1980. DVD. Secaucus NJ, Eros Entertainment Inc.
Prakash Jha (Director), Raajneeti (Hindi with English subtitles), 2010. Marina Del Ray CA, UTV Communications.
Nina Paley (Director/Animator), Sita Sings the Blues (English), 2008.
Peter Brook (Director), The Mahabharata (English), 2002. Chatsworth CA: Image Entertainment.
John D Smith, tr., The Mahabharata, Penguin, 2009
Arshia Sattar, tr. The Ramayana, Penguin, 2000
|Examinations and Assignments: |
Two short essays; midterm and final
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments: |
Regular attendance and reading of all assigned materials. Active participation in class discussion. This course counts toward the South Asian Studies cerfiticate as a historical inquiry course.
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