July 7, 2003

Fulbright grant gives Patton passage to India

By Elaine Justice

Laurie Patton, associate professor and chair of religion, has been awarded a Fulbright grant for study abroad in India during the 2003–04 academic year.

Simultaneously, she also has been awarded an international and area studies fellowship from the American Council on Learned Societies (ACLS). This particular grant is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the Social Science Research Council.

These grants will enable Patton to complete her project titled “Grandmother Language: Women, Religion and Sanskrit in Maharashtra and Beyond.” Patton plans to return to the Maharashtra region of India, where the study of Sanskrit is becoming increasingly open to women. Using their own personal narratives, Patton’s research will examine Indian women’s lives, religious commitments and practices, and their understandings of their roles as teachers and scholars.

Patton will publish a book on her findings, which is expected to provide a unique perspective on the history of Sanskrit and gender studies, a topic she said only now has begun to be treated in a systematic way.

“Very few studies have been conducted on the relationship between women and classical languages in any field,” Patton said. “This study has worldwide implications as an example of women’s abilities to become caretakers and transmitters of a classical tradition—which previously has been the prerogative of men.”

A specialist in early Indian religions and a woman Sanskritist herself, Patton recently completed two lengthy projects, Myth as Argument: The Brhaddevata as Canonical Commentary (DeGruyter) and Bringing the Gods to Mind (forthcoming from University of California Press).

Over the last two decades, Patton has made her part-time Indian homes in Varanasi and Pune. Her interests in the interpretation of early Indian ritual and narrative, comparative mythology and literary theory in the study of religion have resulted in more than two dozen articles and several edited volumes, including Authority, Anxiety and Canon: Essays in Vedic Interpretation (1994), Myth and Method (with Wendy Doniger, 1996) and Jewels of Authority: Women and Text in the Hindu Tradition (2002).

She is completing another edited volume, The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Evocation (with Edwin Bryant), on the debates about early Aryan origins, and has been co-editor (with Paul Griffiths) of the SUNY series, Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions.

Her other authored works include Fire’s Goal: Poems from a Hindu Year (2002) and a translation of Bhagavad Gita, forthcoming from Penguin Press Classics Series in 2003.

As of September 2003, Patton will be professor of religion, and has been awarded a Winship Distinguished Research Professorship in the Humanities. A faculty member since 1996, Patton earned her bachelor’s from Harvard University and her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.