The Aesthetics of Suffering in the Mahābhārata
The opening chapter introduces the Mahābhārata by briefly discussing its history, its central story and concepts, and some of the basic literary features that will be drawn upon in greater detail in the chapters that follow. It also lays out the basic argument of the book by discussing the aesthetics of suffering, which is made up of five components that work together to produce meaning in the text. These five components are (1) the concept of suffering, both as a central theme and an aesthetic principle (2) narrative strategies, (3) the sensitive reader/receiver (sahṛdaya), (4) characters, and (5) conceptual categories. These five components are discussed particularly in terms of how they work together to encourage the audience to accept the epic’s ethical and religious vision, which centers on confronting the pervasive presence of suffering in the world.
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