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Black, Brian (2003) Dialogue as discourse : Priests, kings and women in the early Upanisads. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The purpose of this thesis is to provide a discourse analysis of the early Upanisads, focusing primarily on the dialogues. We will pay close attention to character development and the description of social situations. In looking at the dialogues, we will argue that the literary presentation of the philosophical ideas is an integral part of the claims that Upanisadic composers were making about reality. Brahmin composers use the dialogue form to explicitly connect particular people, practices and institutions with philosophical ideas. The Upanisads establish the proper mode of conduct for four kinds of dialogical situations; lessons taught by a brahmin teacher to a brahmin student; debates between brahmins and other brahmins; discussions between brahmins and kings; and conversations between brahmins and women. These dialogues serve to outline to both brahmins and their dialogical partners, the proper techniques by which individuals discuss philosophy. This thesis is organised into four main sections. Each section also deals with a particular institutional practice through which brahmins discuss religio-philosophical ideas. The discussions between teachers and students are linked to initiation; conversations between brahmins and other brahmins are presented in the form of a debate; discussions between brahmins and kings are connected to the court and the conversations between brahmins and their wives are linked to household. When we look at the Upanisads in this way, we can better understand their differences from previous Vedic texts, which primarily concentrate on the sacrifice, and how they thus represent a shift in how knowledge is constituted in early historic India.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:10

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