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Dr. Robert Philip Goldman, Professor of Sanskrit and India Studies at the University of California, Berkeley lectures at U of A

Event Date(s)

September 9 & 10, 2009

Event Location

University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta

Event Details

The University of Alberta
Departments of History & Classics and Religious Studies Presents
Dr. Robert Philip Goldman
Professor of Sanskrit and India Studies
Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Wednesday 9 September 2009, 3:30pm
Tory Building 2-58
University of Alberta

Although the rather different representations of the character of Rāma as he is portrayed in Vālmīki’s seminal account of his career and in the influential medieval and early modern versions of the Rāmakathā have been, of course, widely observed, perhaps the most critical element of this difference, the degree to which the hero-avatāra’s human nescience and suffering is real has not been consistently theorized. In the present study I examine the anomaly of a genuinely suffering incarnation of the Supreme Divinity in the Indian context, the sharply differing characterizations of Rāma and Krishna in antiquity, and the degree to which the former takes on many of the characteristics of the latter in medieval devotional literature. In so doing I will examine the ways in which some of the authors of medieval and early modern versions of the Rāma story represent the suffering of the divinity as it is portrayed by Vālmīki. Finally, I will discuss the largely overlooked concerns of Vālmīki’s medieval commentators regarding this crucial issue and the various strategies they adopt to address it. In this way I hope to open up a fresh discussion of the construction and shifting representation some of devotional Hinduism’s most important figures.


Thursday 10 September 2009, 6:30pm
Business Building 2-5
University of Alberta

Although the epic tale known as the Rāmāyaņa is hardly known to most people raised and educated in the west, people schooled in the epic traditions of ancient Greece and Rome, in terms of its longevity, geographical spread and profound cultural impact it must surely be ranked among the most popular and influential stories ever told. Indeed, in occupying a central role in the historical, social, aesthetic, political and religious imagination of hundred of millions of people speaking many languages, belonging to many nations and practicing many religions in a vast sweep of territory from Afghanistan in the west to Bali in the east, the tale, in its innumerable versions can be said to serve as one of the defining cultural threads that bind together the peoples of South and Southeast Asia. The present talk will focus on the oldest and most influential known version of this transnational epic, the ancient Sanskrit poem of the legendary poet-seer Vālmīki in an effort to highlight the aspects of the work that have lent it its immense cultural influence from antiquity to the present day and to examine some of the social, political and religious phenomena that it continues to shape.

For additional information please visit: http://www.uofaweb.ualberta/historyandclassics/

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