Emily T. Hudson
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 to be
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 the history
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 interpretive lenses (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 of dharma 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.
Introduction: The Aesthetics of Suffering in the Mahabharata
1. The Implicit Literary Theory of the Mahabharata
2. Dharma and Rupture in the Game of Dice
3. The Eyesight of Insight: Dhrtarastra and Moral Blindness
4. Time that Ripens and Rots All Creatures
Riddles or the Hell Trick: Theodicy and Narrative Strategies
Conclusion: Dharma and Suffering
Appendix: Glossary of Characters
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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 focus on South Asian literature and literary theory and comparative religious ethics.
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