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BA Politics and Modern History

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Goddesses, Demons and Stories in South Asian History: From Early Epics to the Present Day

Unit code RELT21222
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Religions & Theology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Visit South Asia, and stories are everywhere. This course considers how history, story and religion inform one another in South Asia.

We focus on why stories are a significant part of South Asia, and why history and story is often narrated using religious or cosmological terms. Students will also explore what these narratives reveal about power, devotion, gender, storytellers and society.

Material and case studies on this unit includes authoritative and countercultural texts; women’s songs; folk performances and blockbuster television; sacred spaces; and ideas of sex and sensuality within and across different religious traditions. 

As well as exploring these issues theoretically, students will also have the opportunity to engage first-hand with primary texts, including literature; animation; images; dance and oral performances.

You will also develop practical skills of teamwork and peer assessment.



  • To introduce students to the wonderfully varied forms of storytelling in Indian religious and philosophical traditions, and the ways in which they relate to different historical, social and ethical contexts
  • To analyse oral, written and visual forms of story-telling texts
  • To develop skills in: reading, hearing, analysing and reworking primary sources; working in groups and setting goals; making creative presentations, drawing on web-based materials where appropriate
  • To acquire a critical foundation that will enable the study of Indian traditions at more advanced levels

Learning outcomes


Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand ways in which stories are told and retold both within and across Indian religious traditions
  • Analyse ways in which narratives are used to explore ethical and social issues in Indian traditions

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Ask critical questions about ways in which story-telling can be used to construct and criticise group identifications, social, political and religious
  • Evaluate the ethical implications of an Indian narrative


Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Critically employ a range of hard copy and online resources including those produced by and for Indian groups
  • Undertake self and peer review (formative only)


Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Show an ability to work in a group, to formulate a problem, devise a solution, using a creative medium and tackle issues which arise from this
  • Organise your own time and priorities


Employability skills

Analytical skills
¿ Analyse and appraise large amount of complex information
Project management
¿ Understand the importance of working to deadlines, and integrate this into successfully balancing individual initiative and collegial collaboration
Oral communication
¿ Develop and demonstrate their communication skills, including written and oral presentation
Problem solving
¿ Reflect upon their experience of working on a problem and their skills in peer-support, including solving issues which arise in a team and where people have different expertise and ideas, and where conflict may arise
¿ Apply research skills and evaluate the success of a project

Assessment methods

Formative Essay Plan 0%
Essay 50%
Exam 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

•   Written feedback on essays 1 and 2


Formative (1), Summative (2)

• Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)



Recommended reading

  • Suthren Hirst, Jacqueline  Sita’s Story (Norwich: RMEP, 1997)
  • Abbott, H. Porter, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, second ed. 2008)
  • Behl, Aditya  Love’s Subtle Magic: an Indian Islamic Literary tradition 1379-1545 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Bose, Mandakranta  A Woman’s Ramayana: Candravati’s Bengali Epic (London: Routledge, 2013)
  • Manjhan, Madhumalati: an Indian Sufi Romance, tr. Aditya Behl and Simon Weightman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Narayan, Kirin Storytellers, Saints and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu ReligiousTeaching (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989)
  • Prasad, Leela  Poetics of Conduct: Oral Narrative and Moral Being in a South Indian Town (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007)
  • Suthren Hirst, Jacqueline and John Zavos  Religious Traditions in Modern South Asia  (London: Routledge, 2011), especially chapters 4, 7b and 9  (whole book esp ch.1 will be useful if you did not do RELT 1022)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ketan Alder Unit coordinator

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