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The War of the Worlds: an Introduction to the Mahabharata - 30 credits (RT1219)

Module Tutor: Dr Simon Brodbeck

Summary of course content

This module provides a rounded introduction to the Mahabharata, focusing in particular on the Sanskrit Mahabharata in English translation and using it as lens through which to explore a range of themes important in Indian cultural history and beyond. No prior knowledge is assumed of the Mahābhārata or the Indian context. Students will develop a working familiarity with the Mahabharata narrative, with the issues it raises, and with its interpretation. Topics include: patriliny and its gender implications; royalism and class structure; debates on the propriety of violence; fatalism and salvation. This module integrates a broad interdisciplinary perspective on old heroic poetry and relates the Mahabharata to present-day concerns.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: not available 2012-13

Prerequisites
None

Necessary for
N/A

Aims

• To introduce the Mahabharata in its widest anthropological context, as a narrative artefact.
• To introduce the Sanskrit Mahabharata in the historical and literary context of its production.
• To introduce the Sanskrit Mahabharata in its subsequent Hindu context, and in relation to non-Sanskrit Mahabharatas.
• To introduce the Sanskrit Mahabharata in its international context as a work of world literature.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module a student should be able to:

• demonstrate an understanding of key concepts in late Vedic and classical Hindu religion as they arise in the Mahabharata.
• demonstrate and apply a working knowledge of the Mahabharata’s narrative.
• identify and discuss (with reference to secondary literature) key issues that that narrative highlights and debates.

Teaching Methods

Lectures

Assessment

One essay (2000 words, 25%), and a three-hour exam (75%)

Suggested book purchases

John D. Smith, trans., The Mahabharata: an Abridged Translation. London: Penguin Classics, 2009.

Suggested preparatory reading

John L. Brockington, ‘The Sanskrit Epics.’ In: Gavin Flood, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.
Simon Brodbeck, ‘Sanskrit Epics: the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Harivamsha.’ In: Jessica Frazier, ed., The Continuum Companion to Hindu Studies. London: Continuum, 2011.
James L. Fitzgerald, ‘Mahabharata.’ In: Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, eds, The Hindu World. New York: Routledge, 2004.
John D. Smith, trans., The Mahabharata: an Abridged Translation. London: Penguin Classics, 2009.

Teaching Methods

Lectures

Assessment

One essay (2000 words, 25%), and a three-hour exam (75%)

Primary sources

The Mahabharata