The Clever Wife – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

The Clever Wife

Well-known religions and languages expert discusses folktale

(April 13, 2005) GENEVA, N.Y.–Professor Wendy Doniger, an eminent writer and professor at the University of Chicago, will visit Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Monday, April 25, and has scheduled two events during her stay. The first, a seminar, will be offered from 12 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. in the Fisher Center and is titled “The Politics of Translation in Cross-Cultural Studies.” At 4 p.m., Doniger will give a lecture titled “The Man Who Would Not Sleep with His Wife until She Had Borne Him a Son” in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. Both of these events are free and open to the public.

Recently, Doniger has been the main target of attacks by radical fundamentalists who think that non-Hindu scholars of Hinduism have no right to tell others their ideas about Hinduism. Doniger's seminar will challenge this particular trend, along with the trend of limiting those who study any group to those within the group–women studying women, Jews studying Jews. She will also counter the argument that the experiences (more particularly the sufferings of injustice) of the particular group are unique and therefore not comprehensible to anyone who has not “been there.”

Doniger's work on Hinduism covers a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender and ecology. Her lecture will deal with the well-known folktale of the Clever Wife, in which a man challenges his wife to get his ring and a child fathered by him without his cooperation, and she succeeds by tricking him into an apparent adultery, when she disguises herself as another, more desirable, woman.

Though her current interest, research and teaching focus mostly on Hinduism and mythology, Doniger actually began her adult life as a classically trained dancer. She went on to get two doctorates in Sanskrit from Harvard University and Indian Studies from Oxford University. Before becoming the Mircea Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, Doniger taught at Harvard, Oxford, the University of London and the University of California. As the former president of the American Academy of Religion and the current president of the Association for Asian Studies, Doniger is well-known and influential in her fields.

Doniger is also an accomplished writer, having published more than 10 books, including three Penguin Classics, and more than 200 articles and reviews. She has won many awards, including the PEN Oakland literary award for excellence in multi-cultural literature, non-fiction, for “Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India” and a Rose Mary Crawshay prize from the British Academy for the best book about English literature written by a woman for “The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade.” Doniger also serves on the international editorial board of the Encyclopedia Britannica and on the board of “Daedalus.”