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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Heidi R. Pauwels
RELIG 454
Seattle Campus

Perceptions of the Feminine Divine in Hinduism

Explores implications of the perception of a feminine divine for gender issues in South Asia. Includes historical overview of goddess worship in South Asia, mythologies, philosophical systems, cults, and rituals associated with the major goddesses, the phenomena of suttee, goddess possession, and women's goddess rituals at the village level.

Class description

This course explores the implications of the perception of a feminine divine for gender issues in South Asia. It starts off with a historical overview of the emergence of the phenomenon of goddesses worship in South Asia from its earliest origins in Indus Valley Civilization and the Vedic hymns to its crystallization in the Dev¥-Mahåtmya. We will read and analyze the latter text, since it is the sacred scripture par excellence of the goddess and it functions prominently in modern day worship. The course also includes portrait sketches of the most important Hindu goddesses, their mythologies and the some of the philosophical systems, cults and rituals associated with them. Throughout, we will discuss theoretical issues regarding goddess's function as role model for women, political and social significance of goddess worship, suttee, the phenomenon of goddess possession and women's goddess rituals at the village level. Students will read both secondary material and primary texts ranging from sacred Hindu scriptures to folk tales.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Class format: Week 1-2: Lecture for historical background and classical discussion for textual analysis Week 3-9: Classical discussions and Student-led “talkshow” sessions: one “host” or interviewer, one “guest” or expert for each class session. Students form the “public” and are asked to contribute questions/ comments. All prepare one specified reading, host and guest prepare one additional one and write report. Please be sure to sign up as soon as possible. Week 10-11: Mini-conference with presentation of final papers

Recommended preparation

Prerequisite: Relig 352 or Asian 203

Class assignments and grading

- initial assignment: historical overview Hinduism/goddess - reading log for each class section readings - class "talk show" presentation with report - final paper with abstract and presentation

Evaluation: 1. class participation: initial assignment, reading log & contribution to discussions (20%) 2. class session with report: due the session after you present (30%) 3. final paper, includes abstract to be posted on newsgroup W9(40%) 4. presentation of final paper during week 10-11 (10%)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Heidi R. Pauwels
Date: 09/28/2006