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Riven by LustIncest and Schism in Indian Buddhist Legend and Historiography$
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Jonathan A. Silk

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824830908

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824830908.001.0001

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Joseph and the Wife of Potiphar

Joseph and the Wife of Potiphar

(p.171) 16 Joseph and the Wife of Potiphar
Riven by Lust

Jonathan A. Silk

University of Hawai'i Press

Examples of both Buddhist and non-Buddhist stories demonstrate that the motif of mother–son incest is relatively widely found in classical Indian literature. A familiarity with this typical, and perhaps even archetypal, pattern provides further understanding of the most likely original architecture of the sexual power relations between Mahādeva and his mother. This chapter focuses on this common pattern known to folklorists as stories of the “Joseph and the Wife of Potiphar” type. The key element in these stories is an attempted (though it is true, rarely consummated) sexual advance by an older woman to a younger boy, whose beauty is often explicitly emphasized. Here the displacements are from the mother to a woman in a relative position of power and from son to a young man in an appropriately subservient position. The vector of expression of sexual interest is from mother-figure to son-figure, and almost never the reverse.

Keywords:   Indian Buddhism, incest, mother figure, son figure, ancient Indian literature, sexual interest

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