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IDSEMUG 1989 - Mahabharata and Ramayana: Myth and Conflict

We’ll read and discuss the two great epics of South Asian history, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.Both epics tell us that dharma (or “right conduct”) is subtle; and both epics define and critique dharma within a world that is on the cusp of collapse.We will enter into the epics’ debates about action, duty, individuality, just violence, and, in general, the possibilities for an ethical life in calamitous times.We will read extensively from each epic (including the Bhagavad Gita), while tracing the development of key themes:kingship and family, women and sexuality, mortals, avatars, and gods, the fate of the outsider, animals and non-human life, battle and purification, the fate of the soul, poetry as teaching, devotion, commemoration—and critique.We’ll also read a set of representative critical essays on the two epics from anthropological, historical, and literary perspectives.Finally, as we read the Ramayana, we’ll give attention to the question of “many Ramayanas”—that is, the tale’s multiple retellings by a diverse array of peoples—Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, South Indians, and Nepalese—and in diverse mediums—dance, theater, film, and graphic novels. Add Consent: Department Consent Required.
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