Fall 2022

Epic Tales

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-273  |  History, as HIST-273

Moodle site: Course


Mekhola S. Gomes (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 273 [AS/TC/TS/P] and ASLC 273 [SA]) The Ramayana is one of the most famous epic tales in the world. It is a fascinating narrative of intrigue, exile, love, loss, violence, and redemption and is especially well known by people in or connected to South and Southeast Asia. They would have seen, heard, or read versions of the story of Rāma, Sītā, and the battle with Rāva?a at some point in their lives. What is less known is that all these stories refer back to Vālmīki’s Rāmāya?a, the first and most prestigious Ramayana story written in Sanskrit around 2500 years ago. We begin this course by reading Vālmīki’s Sanskrit composition in translation. Once we are familiar with Vālmīki’s Rāmāya?a, we move on to explore Ramayana narratives through time in languages including Tamil, Old Javanese, and Hindi as well as feminist and anti-caste iterations of the epic. We will also examine Ramayana stories as performances, songs, and television shows. All the while, we will keep in mind the central questions of the course: how do historians interpret literature to write history? How may we think of the relationships between belief, myth and history? We will critically examine questions of translation, circulation, and adaptation. This course ultimately draws our attention to the global power of stories that animated the distant historical past and continue to enchant the present. Two meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Gomes.

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Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, including written documents, images, films, images, and performances from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about questions of translation, circulation, and reception of cultures and languages. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.


2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023