Disorienting Dharma: Ethics and the Aesthetics of Suffering in the Mahabharata

Paperback | January 8, 2013

byEmily T. Hudson

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This book explores the relationship between ethics, aesthetics, and religion in classical Indian literature and literary theory by focusing on one of the most celebrated and enigmatic texts to emerge from the Sanskrit epic tradition, the Mahabharata. This text, which is widely acknowledged tobe one of the most important sources for the study of South Asian religious, social, and political thought, is a foundational text of the Hindu tradition(s) and considered to be a major transmitter of dharma (moral, social, and religious duty), perhaps the single most important concept in thehistory of Indian religions. However, in spite of two centuries of Euro-American scholarship on the epic, basic questions concerning precisely how the epic is communicating its ideas about dharma and precisely what it is saying about it are still being explored. Disorienting Dharma brings to bear a variety of interpretivelenses (Sanskrit literary theory, reader-response theory, and narrative ethics) to examine these issues. One of the first book-length studies to explore the subject from the lens of Indian aesthetics, it argues that such a perspective yields startling new insights into the nature of the depiction ofdharma in the epic through bringing to light one of the principle narrative tensions of the epic: the vexed relationship between dharma and suffering. In addition, it seeks to make the Mahabharata interesting and accessible to a wider audience by demonstrating how reading the Mahabharata, perhaps the most harrowing story in world literature, is a fascinating, disorienting, and ultimately transformative experience.

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This book explores the relationship between ethics, aesthetics, and religion in classical Indian literature and literary theory by focusing on one of the most celebrated and enigmatic texts to emerge from the Sanskrit epic tradition, the Mahabharata. This text, which is widely acknowledged tobe one of the most important sources for the...

Before joining the Religion Department at Boston University in 2010, Emily Hudson taught at Harvard University as a lecturer in the history and literature program. Situating herself methodologically at the crossroads of religion and literature, the history of religions, and religious ethics, Hudson's teaching and research interests fo...

other books by Emily T. Hudson

Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:January 8, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199860785

ISBN - 13:9780199860784

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Aesthetics of Suffering in the Mahabharata1. The Implicit Literary Theory of the Mahabharata2. Dharma and Rupture in the Game of Dice3. The Eyesight of Insight: Dhrtarastra and Moral Blindness4. Time that Ripens and Rots All Creatures5. Heaven's Riddles or the Hell Trick: Theodicy and Narrative StrategiesConclusion: Dharma and SufferingAppendix: Glossary of Characters