The School of History, Archaeology and Religion are delighted to secure Serious Brain Power fellow, Simon Brodbeck.
Simon Brodbeck brings to the School of History, Archaeology and Religion a unique perspective on old Sanskrit literature. His early research focused on the Bhagavadgita, a 700–verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, while in his postdoctoral work at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London he turned his attention to the Mahabharata’s narrative structure and gender ideology. Through his research, he identified certain repeating patterns to reveal how some of these are correlated with generic soteriologies (religious doctrines of salvation) and ideologies of royal government, both of which utilise gendered philosophical concepts. In particular, he showed how the repetition of narrative motifs is connected to problems of patrilineal maintenance within the Mahabharata’s central royal patriline, most especially the threat of excessive influence from the female side. Exploration of this latter theme, and of the narrative motifs associated with it, led Brodbeck to propose radical new interpretations of several important Mahabharata stories, which he discusses in his published works, notably The Mahabharata Patriline: Gender, Culture, and the Royal Hereditary (2009).
Since joining as a researcher at Cardiff University in 2008, Brodbeck’s research has continued its preoccupation with royal patrilineal ideology in early Sanskrit narrative literature. He has explored the mechanics and the implications of royal descent from the moon or the sun; the connection between solar descent and the possession of special jewellery; and the connection between the rajasuya ritual and junior-branch lineal takeover. As a necessary accompaniment to the close textual analysis that his approach requires, he has also worked on the methodology of textual constitution, arguing for the literary integrity of critically reconstituted texts and, consequently, that the Harivamsha should be seen as the concluding part of the Mahabharata. In connection with this latter interest, his current project as part of the Serious Brain Power initiative is a translation of the Harivamsha as critically reconstituted in the late twentieth century.