Emily T. Hudson

in Disorienting Dharma

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860760
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979936 | DOI:

Series: AAR Religions in Translation


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Chapter 1 examines the possibility of whether or not the Mahābhārata contains an implicit literary theory that can be “lifted out” of its aesthetics of suffering. This chapter discusses three theoretical resources—namely Sanskrit literary theory, reader-response theory, and narrative ethics—that are used to identify and articulate the broader ideas about how literature works that are embedded in the Mahābhārata’s aesthetics of suffering. The discussion is weighted heavily toward Sanskrit literary theory, and the ideas of the ninth-century literary theorist Ānandavardhana in particular. Specifically, this chapter focuses on three aesthetic categories that are borrowed from Ānanda, namely dhvani or “meaning-without-saying” or “suggestion”; sahṛdaya, or “the sensitive reader/spectator”; and rasa or “aestheticized emotion.” By showing how these categories help one to locate meaning in the Mahābhārata, this chapter points to the enormous interpretive potential that could be opened up by bringing such concepts to bear on other works of religious and literary art, South Asian and beyond.

Keywords: literary theory; aesthetics of suffering; Sanskrit literary theory; Ānandavardhana; dhvani; sahṛdaya; sensitive reader; rasa; reader-response theory; narrative ethics

Chapter.  9715 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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