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Haskins Prize Lecturers

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Wendy Doniger

2015 Haskins Prize Lecturer


Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago


The lecture was delivered on May 8 during the 2015 ACLS Annual Meeting.

From the lecture program:

Wendy Doniger graduated from Radcliffe College and received her PhD from Harvard University and her DPhil from Oxford University. She has taught at Harvard, Oxford, the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, the University of California at Berkeley, and, since 1978, at the University of Chicago, where she is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Committee on Social Thought. In 1984 she was elected president of the American Academy of Religion, in 1989 a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 1996 a member of the American Philosophical Society, and in 1997 president of the Association for Asian Studies. She was a member of the ACLS Board of Directors from 1994-99. She holds seven honorary degrees (one from Harvard). In 1986 she was awarded the Radcliffe Medal; in 1992 the Medal of the Collège de France; in June, 2000, the PEN Oakland literary award for excellence in multi-cultural literature, non-fiction, for Splitting the Difference; and in October, 2002, the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize from the British Academy, for the best book about English literature written by a woman, for The Bedtrick. The Graham School of the University of Chicago gave her the award for Excellence in Teaching in Graduate Studies in 2007, and she was awarded the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring by the University of Chicago, in 2012. The American Academy of Religion awarded her the 2008 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. In 2012 she was awarded the Ramnath Goenka Award from the Express Group, India, for the best book, non-fiction for The Hindus—An Alternative History, which was also a finalist for the New York Book Critics Circle Award, in 2010. She has mentored over 70 students through their PhDs. 

Professor Doniger’s research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas, Hinduism and mythology. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology.

Among over 40 books published under the names of Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are 17 interpretive works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folkore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended To Be Who She Was; The Hindus: An Alternative History; On Hinduism; and Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2014). Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics––Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith)—and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are The Ring of  Truth, And Other Myths of Sex and Jewelry; Resistance to Religion in Ancient India: The Hidden Transcript of the Sciences of Politics and Pleasure  (the 2014 Terry Lectures at Yale); and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.