Richard H. Davis, Bard College

Bhakti in the Classroom: What Do Students Hear?
The ways we present bhakti in undergraduate courses constructs the phenomenon of bhakti for students, and their responses in turn guide our choices as instructors.  I propose to consider my own experiences, over nine incarnations of the course “Devotion and Poetry in Medieval India,” of presenting and representing bhakti for students at Yale and Bard College.  How well do my pedagogical choices reflect the field of scholarship, and how do they convey my own preferences and predilections?  What kinds of readings have been most successful in engaging student response, and what does this suggest about the translatability of Indian devotionalism in American college settings?  How does this course represent bhakti: as a language of power, of protest, or of poetry?

Bio: Richard H. Davis is Professor and Chair of Religion and Asian Studies Programs at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.  Formerly he taught as assistant and associate professor at Yale University.  His most recent publication is The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography (Princeton University Press, 2014).  He is author of four other books: Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshiping Siva in Medieval India (Princeton, 1991), Lives of Indian Images (Princeton, 1997), Global India, circa 100 CE: South Asia in Early World History (AAS, 2010), and A Priest’s Guide for the Great Festival (Oxford, 2010).  He has edited two volumes, and also wrote the text for a catalog of Indian religious prints, Gods in Print: Masterpieces of India’s Mythological Art (Mandala, 2012).  Currently he is continuing work on the reception history of the Bhagavad Gita, and on a history of religions in early South Asia.