Honors | Medieval Devotional Literatures of India (HON)
H303 | 29003 | Rebecca Manring
Meets with INST-I 371, INST-I 571, REL-R 352, and CMLT-C 301
The term 'medieval' with reference to Indian literature covers a
much longer period than it does in Europe, ranging by some accounts
from the 6th century into the early 16th. In this course we will
read some of the earliest devotional Hindu literature, from South
India; the northern poems of the Krishna-devotional traditions; and
some Indian Sufi materials. Students will work with the best
available translations of these works, and those (graduate students)
who possess the necessary skills are strongly encouraged to read
materials in their original languages. We will determine the role of
social class in the devotional traditions and see what sorts of
ethics dominate the discourse. We will explore the literary
innovations of this material. And we will explore the use of various
tropes in the devotional context with attention given to why
seemingly transgressive material has become so widely accepted and
We will see what we can discover about the historical, social and
political contexts of these works, and see if any of the authors can
speak to each other. Along the way we will listen to contemporary
recorded versions of many of these pieces, watch some relevant
films, and even investigate the extent to which contemporary
Bollywood echoes these devotional themes.
As we study Indian esthetic theory and the various devotional
traditions, students will participate in classroom discussions
designed to assist them in understanding the material. Students will
read and edit each other's short writing assignments, and their
efforts in this class will culminate in a final paper exploring some
of the larger questions the devotional literature raises.
Students will learn about a broad range of devotional expression,
its historical, social and political contexts, and how a modern
scholar approaches these materials.
By the end of the semester students will be able to describe at
least three devotional traditions and discuss, for each,
-time and place of origin;
-three different ways each speaks of its object of devotion;
-one major literary creation, and tell why each of the following is
2. original language
3. poetic imagery
-its impact in modern India.
Attendance is expected. Since 25% of your grade will be based on our
activities in class, you will not be able to receive a good grade if
you choose to spend your time elsewhere.
NOTE: Absence for attendance at religious services or events is a
separate issue; you MUST inform the professor of any such absences
you foresee, no later than January 11, so that reasonable
accommodation can be made.
We will be doing a great deal of the work for this course in class,
in both small and large-group discussions. There will be no formal
examinations in this class.
Grading for this class will be based on your attendance and
participation in classroom exercises (25%) and on 6 written
assignments (50%), and a final research project (25%).
Students are responsible for carrying out assigned readings by
specified dates. I will call on you in class to answer questions
based on the readings. You are also responsible for knowing material
discussed or presented in class, but not necessarily treated in the
Textbooks (all available at TIS and the IU Bookstores):
The Gitagovinda of Jayadeva: Love Song of the Dark Lord. Barbara
Manjhan Madhumalati: An Indian Sufi Romance. Aditya Behl and Simon
Three Bhakti Voices. John Stratton Hawley.
Antal and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South
India. Vidya Dehejia The Bijak of Kabir. Linda Hess and Shukdeo
Death Before Dying: The Sufi Poems of Sultan Bahu. Jamal J. Elias.