Instructor:  C. Mackenzie Brown
Office: Chapman Center 250 C
Hours:  MWF 9:30-11:20; MW 1:30-4:00;
             and by appointment
Phone:  x-8429

Trinity University 

Spring Semester 2012

Class time: 12:30 MWF 

Classroom:  Chapman Center 235


COURSE DESCRIPTION: Religion 3331 is a course on Hindu religious thought, culture, practice, and experience, as well as on the encounter of the tradition with European civilization under colonial domination and the subsequent challenges of modernity. The course explores the foundational religious narratives, myths, rituals, conceptions, and values that have inspired and shaped the life experiences of Hindu men, women, and children over the last few millennia. It also examines how the Hindu tradition historically has been, and currently is being, interpreted and represented by insiders and outsiders.

After a brief introductory query into "What is Hinduism?" the course will focus for the first half of the semester on the foundational narratives of the tradition, emphasizing readings in translation from major primary texts of Hindu sacred literature. We shall read selections from the Vedic texts, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Epics and Puranas, the Laws of Manu, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Devi Gita.  Attention will also be given to ritual and spiritual practices. The second half of the course will turn to the encounter of the Hindu tradition with the West and with modernity, with attention to contemporary issues and expressions of the tradition both in India and abroad. The last section of the course will focus specifically on the issues surrounding the emergence of a Hindu diaspora and the rise of Hindu nationalism .

Throughout the course we shall pay close attention to the question of who speaks for the Hindu Tradition. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that there are no facts about Hinduism objectively lying somewhere "out there" that speak for themselves. Rather, whoever comes to the tradition--seeking to understand it in some fashion or other--comes with his or her own perspective, ignoring some aspects, highlighting others, interpreting at every step. Some interpretations, however, are more compelling and take into account the evidence in more critical ways than others. During the first half of the course while reading the foundational narratives, we shall consider the "outsider" perspectives of (Western) academic scholars of Hinduism, and the "insider" perspectives of both the spiritual/intellectual leaders and devout lay practitioners. We shall pay special attention, for instance, to the stance of the translators, most of whom are Westerners, as we read the primary texts. In the last half of the course, we shall examine the ways in which European scholars and missionaries came to uncover--initially for Westerners--the Hindu civilizational heritage, and how their understandings and interpretations have affected Hindus' own self understanding of their tradition(s) in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

TEACHING METHODS: The instructor will utilize a general mixing of lectures, discussions, and student presentations. Students are always encouraged to interrupt the instructor with questions and comments. Audiovisual aids will be used frequently, providing the student with some other means of learning than the written or spoken word alone. The instructor welcomes students to come and visit him during office hours, individually or in small groups, for informal discussion.

WRITTEN AND SPEAKING REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE: For graded assignments, there will be a midterm exam (20% of final grade), a final exam (30%), a term project (30%), a class presentation (5%),  a leading of a class discussion (5%), and general participation in discussions throughout the semester (10%). The term project will involve library research and possibly field research, interviewing Hindus regarding some aspect of the encounter of contemporary Hindus with modernity, and may further involve a visit or visits to a Hindu temple or temples.  In addition, there are ten required "admission tickets" (see below). Failure to submit the full number of admission tickets will result in the loss of 1 point on the final grade for each missing admission ticket. If an admission ticket is submitted but deemed by the instructor as too incomplete or vague to earn a "pass," then it will not be counted as one of the ten. However, a student may still submit ten admission tickets, despite a "fail" on one or more, if there are enough admission ticket opportunities left in the semester.

Deadlines concerning the Term Project
Deadline for submission (via T-Learn) of a clear, preliminary statement of your project, including explanation of a specific problem or a closely related set of problems, along with a tentative annotated bibliography Friday, March 2, 5:00 p.m.
Required meeting with instructor, to discuss specific plans for project By appointment during week of March 5-9
Deadline for submission of final project (via T-Learn), for getting feedback and grade by last day of class Friday, April 20, 5:00 p.m.
Late deadline for submission of final project (via T-Learn), for getting feedback and grade by May 3, and a 2 point penalty on the project grade Tuesday, April 24, 11:59:59 p.m.
Extra-late, absolute deadline for submission of final project (via T-Learn), without feedback, and a 4 point penalty on the project grade Saturday, May 5, 5:00 p.m.

The midterm and final exams are to be done on-line, any time during a specified period extending over a few days. These specified periods are indicated below. Exams are to be submitted to the instructor via T-Learn. Exams will cover not only written materials, but also slides viewed in class. Thus, a student may be asked to interpret not only scriptural texts, but also sacred images, paintings, or statues. More detailed information on the exams will be given in class.

Dates of Exams
Midterm exam (on first two sections of course) Wed., Mar. 7, 1:30 p.m. to Fri., Mar. 9, 5:00 p.m.
Final exam (on all sections of the course) Fri., April 30, 2:00 p.m. to May 4, 3:00 p.m.

In addition to the graded assignments, there are sixteen formal discussion and presentation days for which a brief, 150-250 word response to the reading is required as an admission ticket for  each of these days.  Some discussion days will be led by the instructor, others by students. These days are indicated below and on the course outlines.  Exceptions regarding admission tickets:  1) you are NOT to submit an admission ticket for the day you lead discussion, NOR for the day you present; 2) you are allowed four free passes without an admission ticket for the remaining 14 discussion days. Thus, ten admission tickets are required for the semester as a whole, in addition to leading a discussion and presenting a topic.  Plan ahead and do not use all your free passes at the beginning of the semester.  Many of the discussion days are planned for the last two weeks of the course, so it would be good to save one or two free passes for this time. After you have used up your free passes, you will not be allowed into the classroom on discussion days without a written admission ticket.  Admission tickets are due three hours before the beginning of class, submitted via T-Learn.

Discussion days, instructor-led, are in red
Discussion days, student-led, are in green
Student presentation days are in blue
1. Who Speaks for Hinduism? Friday, January 13
2. Scholars, Devotees, and the Quest for Vedic Origins Wednesday, Jan. 18
3. Dharmic Tensions:  Duty, Treachery, and Violence in the Ramayana Friday, February 3
4. Puranic Hinduism: Ganeśa in Popular Devotion and the Milk Miracle Wednesday, Feb. 8
5. Love songs to Krishna and the Kama Sutra Friday, February 24
6. The Laws of Manu: For Whose Benefit? Wednesday, Feb. 29
7. Orientalism and Postcolonialism Wednesday, March 21
8. Issues of Caste and Gender Monday, April 2
9. Sati: Empowerment or Murder? Wednesday, April 4
10. Bankim Chandra Chatterji and the Stirrings of Hindu Nationalism Wednesday, April 11
11. Diasporic Hinduism and Hinduism Today Monday, April 16
12. Democracy, Religious Violence, and Genocide Wednesday, April 18
13. The Hindu Liberal Perspective and Pluralism Friday, April 20
14. The Hindu Right, Purity, and Domination Monday, April 23
15. Revisioning History, Revising Education Wednesday, April 25
16. The Diaspora Community and the Clash Within, and a Response to Nussbaum Friday, April 27

CLASS ATTENDANCE: Attendance is STRONGLY ENCOURAGED but not required. However, excessive absences from class will result in a lower participation grade, and will also affect performance on exams, since students are responsible for materials discussed in class, including slides. There is one exception to this attendance policy: attendance on the last day of class, Friday, April 30, is required--no unexcused absences are accepted for this day. An unexcused absence on April 30 will result in a one point penalty on the final grade for the course.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY POLICY: All students are expected to be thoroughly familiar with the Honor Code.  With increasing use of Internet sources and "cut and paste" technology, it is all too easy to plagiarize the work of others.  This can happen especially when you are rushed, tired, and generally stressed. Whether intentional, or due simply to forgetting to include proper citations, or especially to failing to exercise due caution in using your own wording when paraphrasing another's words, or neglecting to indicate by quotation marks the actual words of another author, it is still plagiarism! 

Needless to say, there are other forms of academic dishonesty than plagiarizing from the Internet.  For this course, in particular, use of the open web or of files from your Y-drive during the on-line exams, is a violation of academic integrity. Submission of an admission ticket that is not fully your own is a violation of academic integrity (and can result in an F for the class even though the admission tickets are not graded as such). If you work together with another student and/or share notes, except where specifically required (as in the class presentations and leading of discussion), such collaboration must be acknowledged and fully described.  Please be aware of other behaviors that constitute violations of academic integrity in its various forms.  

The instructor has a basic faith in the integrity of students and their desire to live in a world where fairness and trust are dominant features of the way we conduct our lives in community with others.  Understanding and observing academic integrity are part of building that world of fairness and trust, right here at Trinity.  However, should the instructor become aware of violations of academic integrity, he will file the necessary charges.  Remember: one of the penalties for any violation of academic integrity is an F for the course.

If you have any questions or doubts relating to academic integrity regarding any assignments for this class, including what help you may or may not receive on the term project, PLEASE ASK THE INSTRUCTOR!

BOOKS FOR THE COURSE (available in the University Bookstore):

1. Chatterji, Bankimcandra, Anandamath, or The Sacred Brotherhood, Translated with an Introduction and Critical Apparatus by Julius J. Lipner

2. Brown, C. Mackenzie (trans.), The Song of the Goddess--The Devi Gita: Spiritual Counsel of the Great Goddess

3. Doniger, Wendy, with Brian K. Smith (trans.), The Laws of Manu

4. Hawley, John Stratton, and Vasudha Narayan, eds., The Life of Hinduism

5. Knott, Kim, Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction (click here for an e-book version through the Trinity Library)

6. Miller, Barbara Stoller (trans.), The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War

7. Nussbaum, Martha, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future

8. Sugirtharajah, Sharada, Imagining Hinduism

Other readings will be available on the web.