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The Bhagavadgītā and the West

This course traces the history of the Western reception of the Bhagavadgītā, a central text of classical Hinduism. The course focuses on the idea of “critical” approaches to the Bhagavadgītā, i.e., approaches geared to the text’s presumed social and historical contexts and to its (hypothetical) internal history. The course is organized into three sections: (1) Reception, (2) Reconstruction, and (3) Research.

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Course Code: HAM 6404

Credit Hours: 3

Course Level: 600

This course traces the history of the Western reception of the Bhagavadgītā, a central text of classical Hinduism. The course focuses on the idea of “critical” approaches to the Bhagavadgītā, i.e., approaches geared to the text’s presumed social and historical contexts and to its (hypothetical) internal history. The course is organized into three sections: (1) Reception, (2) Reconstruction, and (3) Research.

Registration for this course is not open yet

SKU: N/A Category:

Description

Course Content

Under “Reception” we shall study the arrival of the Bhagavadgītā in the West and the concerns that dominated its early reception. Here, we shall see how the Bhagavadgītā (and the Mahābhārata more generally) served as a foil for German nationalism and for Protestant Christian anxieties. Under “Reconstruction” we shall study how, in response to these anxieties, scholars manufactured a putative history of the text, reflecting their notions of the corruption of the original revelation, the subordination of the people by the church, and the usurpation of authority from the kings by the priesthood. Under “Research,” we shall then trace how these ideas about an original text, the so-called Ur-Gītā, and its subsequent interpolation percolated to contemporary Indian writers, using Meghnad Desai as an example. Finally, we shall also read excerpts from six authors (Brockington, Davis, Doniger, Rambachan, and Malinar) to understand the central issues alive in Gītā scholarship today (Brahmanism, nationalism, violence, caste, and racism). Optional assignments include looking at Christian apologists’ view of the Bhagavadgītā.

Course Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, students will:

  1. Acquire a comprehensive overview of the Western reception of the Bhagavadgītā.
  2. Understand the various concerns that drove this reception, including the many pseudo-problems (e.g., the “original” Gītā and the so-called problem of the unity of the Gītā) that they engendered.
  3. Develop a thorough knowledge of the Bhagavadgītā as an object of research, as well as of the latest scholarship on the Bhagavadgītā.
  4. Equip themselves with basic principles of textual criticism and the logic required for evaluating this scholarship.
  5. Explore ways of reading the Bhagavadgītā meaningfully as a coherent work of philosophy.

Class Structure

There will be a minimum of 3 contact hours with the faculty every week. The class is structured in a way that promotes discussion, dialogue, and debate based on the study of and reflection on study materials each week. The content discussed in each class and the discussions that follow will continue for about 180 minutes. The Faculty will distribute a detailed syllabus and give a bird’s eye view of the course at its very beginning.

Area of Study: History and Method

Program of Study: Community Education Program (CEP), Master of Arts in Hindu Studies (MA HS), Doctor of Philosophy in Hindu Studies (Ph.D. HS), Certificate Program in Hindu Studies (CPHS),

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Faculty/Instructor Dr. Joydeep Bagchee

Start Date: April 11, 2021

End Date: June 20th, 2021

Time: 10:00 am EST – 01:00 pm EST

Quarter Offered: Spring 2021

Additional information

Quarter Offered

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