Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata

1st Edition

Edited by Simon Brodbeck, Brian Black


328 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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The Sanskrit Mahabharata is one of the most important texts to emerge from the Indian cultural tradition. At almost 75,000 verses it is the longest poem in the world, and throughout Indian history it has been hugely influential in shaping gender and social norms. In the context of ancient India, it is the definitive cultural narrative in the construction of masculine, feminine and alternative gender roles.

This book brings together many of the most respected scholars in the field of Mahabharata studies, as well as some of its most promising young scholars. By focusing specifically on gender constructions, some of the most innovative aspects of the Mahabharata are highlighted. Whilst taking account of feminist scholarship, the contributors see the Mahabharata as providing an opportunity to frame discussion of gender in literature not just in terms of the socio-historical roles of men and women. Instead they analyze the text in terms of the wider poetic and philosophical possibilities thrown up by the semiotics of gendering. Consequently, the book bridges a gap in text-critical methodology between the traditional philological approach and more recent trends in gender and literary theory.

Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata will be appreciated by readers interested in South Asian studies, Hinduism, religious studies and gender studies.


"This is a most useful and interesting book. The contributors are just the people one wants to hear from on this topic, a good mix of the established authorities in the field (particularly Hiltebeitel and Fitzgerald, the sometimes warring giants of Mahabharata studies) as well as other very good, well known and proven authors, and some very talented Bright Young People. The essays bring genuinely new insights to the major gender issues in the Mahabharata and the major approaches that have been applied to them, from classical philology to contemporary queer theory, including psychoanalysis and subaltern studies."

Wendy Doniger, Director of the Martin Marty Center and Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, University of Chicago, USA

Table of Contents

Notes on contributors Acknowledgements Family tree 1. Introduction Simon Brodbeck and Brian Black 2. Listen But Do Not Grieve: Grief, Paternity, and Time in the Laments of Dhrtarastra Emily T. Hudson 3. Eavesdropping on the Epic: Female Listeners in the Mahabharata Brian Black 4. Arguments of a Queen: Draupadi’s Views on Kingship Angelika Malinar 5. How Do You Conduct Yourself? Gender and the Construction of a Dialogical Self in the Mahabharata Laurie L. Patton 6. Among Friends: Marriage, Women, and some Little Birds Alf Hiltebeitel 7. Gendered Soteriology: Marriage and the Karmayoga Simon Brodbeck 8. Bhisma as Matchmaker Nick Allen 9. Bhisma Beyond Freud: Bhisma in the Mahabharata James L. Fitzgerald 10. ‘Show You Are a Man!’: Transsexuality and Gender Bending in the Characters of Arjuna/Brhannada and Amba/Sikhandin(i) Andrea Custodi 11. Krsna’s Son Samba: Faked Gender and other Ambiguities on the Background of Lunar and Solar Myth Georg von Simson 12. Paradigms of the Good in the Mahabharata: Suka and Sulabha in Quagmires of Ethics Arti Dhand Appendix: Concordance of Critical Edition and Ganguli/Roy translation Glossary Bibliography Index

About the Editors

Simon Brodbeck and Brian Black are researchers in the Department of the Study of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Brodbeck is the author of several scholarly articles on aspects of the Mahabharata; Black is the author of The Character of the Self in Ancient India: Priests, Kings and Women in the Early Upanishads.

About the Series

Routledge Hindu Studies Series

This series, in association with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, intends primarily  the publication of constructive Hindu theological, philosophical and ethical projects aimed at bringing Hindu traditions into dialogue with contemporary trends in scholarship and contemporary society. The series invites original, high quality, research level work on religion, culture and society of Hindus living in India and abroad. Proposals for annotated translations of important primary sources and studies in the history of the Hindu religious traditions will also be considered.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Hinduism / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Folklore & Mythology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies