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Disorienting DharmaEthics and the Aesthetics of Suffering in the Mahabharata$
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Emily T. Hudson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199860760

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860760.001.0001

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The Aesthetics of Suffering in the Mahābhārata

(p.3) Introduction
Disorienting Dharma

Emily T. Hudson

Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   Mahābhārata, dharma, duhkha, aesthetics of suffering, ethics, narrative strategies, sensitive reader, characters, conceptual categories

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