Donald R Davis
Associate Professor — PhD, University of Texas at Austin
Sanskrit; Dharmaśāstra; Law and Religion; Medieval India; Malayalam
I have been at UT-Austin since 2013, having worked previously at Bucknell University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My primary research concerns the interaction of law and religion in medieval India. From one side, I look at the historical evidence for law and legal practice in inscriptions, temple archives, and other dated documents as a way to contextualize the law in earlier periods of Indian history. I examined records from the regional language of Malayalam to situate notoriously ahistorical normative texts in Sanskrit in a book entitled The Boundaries of Hindu Law: Tradition, Custom, and Politics in Medieval Kerala (2004). From the other side, I study the Dharmaśāstra tradition as a system of religious law and jurisprudence, apart from historical questions. In The Spirit of Hindu Law (2010), I provide a conceptual overview of the Hindu perspective on law and how it can relate to modern questions of policy, ethics, and religion. Finally, I have a continuing interest in Malayalam language and literature, and I published The Train that Had Wings (2005), a collection of translated short stories by the Malayalam writer M. Mukundan.
I recently completed a book entitled The Dharma of Business: Commerical Law in Medieval India, to appear in 2017 through Penguin India. My current research broadens my interest in the practice of Hindu law in historical perspective, using materials beyond the Dharmaśāstra texts and from many parts of medieval India. At the same time, I am beginning work on a translation of the Mitākṣarā of Vijñāneśvara, a twelfth-century commentary and compendium on dharma.
AREAS OF GRADUATE STUDENT SUPERVISION
I am particularly interested to work with graduate students on Dharmaśāstra traditions and their relevance to law, religion, history, politics, economy, etc. in India. Students with broader interests in comparative religious law and/or "jurists' law" (Jewish law, Islamic law, Roman law, etc) are especially encouraged to inquire about graduate study. At UT, I am one of several faculty members interested in various aspects of Hinduism and also classical religions in India. Thus, I am open to working with students in these areas, though my specialization tends toward normative and "mainstream" areas such as Vedānta, Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā, Epics, and Purāṇas.
ANS 395 • Proseminar In Asian Studies
31770 • Fall 2016
Meets T 2:00PM-5:00PM PAR 214
Core Readings and Methods in Asian Studies. Various theories and methods used in the field of Asian studies, including disciplinary history, controversies, and the diversity of approaches within the field.
SAN 330 • Bhagavata Purana
32500 • Fall 2016
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM WCH 4.118
(also listed as SAN 384S)
Prerequisite: Sanskrit 312L with a grade of at least C.
ANS 340 • Hist Of Hindu Relig Traditn
30775 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BUR 112
(also listed as HIS 364G)
Please check back for updates.
SAN 507 • First-Year Sanskrit II
31705 • Spring 2016
Meets MW 12:00PM-1:00PM CLA 0.124
Detailed study of problems of grammar and syntax; reading of extracts from Hitopadesha and the Bhagavad Gita. Prerequisite: Sanskrit 506 with a grade of at least C.
ANS 398T • Supervised Teaching In Ans
31040 • Fall 2015
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM CAL 200
This course introduces graduate students to teaching in the field of Asian humanities, examining both theoretical approaches to the field of Asian studies and the theory and practice of university teaching. The course begins with readings that orient students to Asian humanities and to a viable articulation of the field itself. The main emphasis of the course will be integrating this wide-ranging vision of excellent scholarship in Asian studies into the tangible practice of excellent teaching. Assignments will ask students to produce materials and think through issues faced in several types of university courses. Students will leave the course with a solid foundation of teaching materials and knowledge about the scholarship of teaching sufficient and suitable for use in applying for university teaching positions.
SAN 506 • First-Year Sanskrit I
31745 • Fall 2015
Meets MW 11:00AM-12:00PM GAR 1.126
Introduction to basic grammatical principles, with reading of Ramayana episodes as illustrations.
SAN 384S • Sanskrit Scholasticism
31755 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM BEN 1.118
COURSE DESCRIPTION & GOALS:
In this course, selections from Sanskrit commentarial literature will introduce students to the common scholastic style used for academic commentary in all genres of Sanskrit. The special idiom and purposes of commentary will be considered in detail. In addition, challenges in translating Sanskrit commentary into accessible English will be addressed throughout the course. Readings for each day are tentatively assigned in the course schedule below. Students will prepare an appropriate amount of text for each class by analyzing the grammar, highlighting key concepts, and drafting a translation. We will not parse each and every term in the text, rather only tricky or uncommon grammatical structures. Over time, the style of scholastic commentary will become more natural. By the end of the course, students should be able to use commentaries to elucidate main texts and to discern innovative arguments made through comments.
REQUIREMENTS & GRADING:
The purpose of this course being to further students’ ability to read Sanskrit at an advanced level, the major requirement for the course is consistent and high quality preparation of the Sanskrit reading for each day. This will include additional assignments pertaining to generic style, grammatical forms, and secondary readings. Two exams, a mid-term and a final, will also be given to ensure students’ progress in these genres of Sanskrit literature. Graduate students in the course will write one exegetical paper (5 pages) in addition to the assignments below.
60% Regular Class Attendance and Preparation
20% Mid-Term Exam
20% Final Exam
TEXT READINGS: (selections; all found in course packet and at Canvas)
Mit?k?ar? of Vijñ?ne?vara (on the Y?jñavalkyadharma??stra)
Brahmas?trabh??ya of ?a?kara (on the Brahmas?tra of B??ar?ya?a)
Sa?j?van? of Mallin?tha (on K?lid?sa’s Raghuva??a)
Tubb, Gary and Emery Boose. Sanskrit Scholasticism.
Speijer, J.S. Sanskrit Syntax.
ANS 340 • Jainism: Relig Of Non-Violence
30985 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM NOA 1.110
(also listed as R S 341)
As one of the world’s oldest religions, Jainism has often been described as an atheistic soteriology, or method of personal salvation alone. The intense religious, especially ascetic, discipline required of Jain monks and nuns is the most visible symbol of Jainism. The cardinal virtue in this ascetic regimen is ahi?s?, or non-violence, which characterizes every action performed by Jain monks and nuns and is held as an ideal for Jain laypeople as well.
Given the emphasis on ascetic practice in Jainism, one may not expect many lay Jains to be merchants who own thriving trading businesses in some of India’s largest cities. The contrast, and seeming contradiction, between ascetic ideals and prosperous lives within the theological, ritual, and social frameworks of Jainism will be the principal subject of this course. The early focus will be on Jain theology and philosophy, i.e. those concepts and world-views that Jain leaders have expounded and idealized since the founding of the tradition in the 5th century BC. The second part of the course will shift attention away from the conceptual and theological to the practical and ritual aspects of Jain life in India. In the end, you will have a solid working knowledge of the basic concepts of Jainism as well as a thorough understanding of everyday life in Jain communities.
SAN 330 • Buddhist And Jain Sanskrit
31895 • Spring 2015
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM PAR 210
(also listed as SAN 384S)
In this course, selections from important texts of Buddhist and Jain traditions will provide students with an exposure both to the Sanskrit vocabulary and style of these traditions and to their conceptual, doctrinal, and narrative foundations. Textual genres focused, first, on systematic expositions of religious doctrine (??stra, dar?ana) and, second, on narrative theologies (kath?, carita, avad?na) will serve as two different windows on these traditions. This twofold approach will also facilitate comparison between the two religious traditions and their respective manners of expressing religious ideas and practice.
Readings for each day are tentatively assigned in the course schedule below. Students will prepare an appropriate amount of text for each class by analyzing the grammar, highlighting key concepts, and drafting a translation. Over time, the style of these genres will become more natural. By the end of the course, students will be able to read on their own other comparable stories and doctrinal texts in Sanskrit from these and other religious traditions.
ANS 379 • Ethics & Scholarship In Asia
32230 • Spring 2014
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM CLA 0.108
May be repeated for credit when topics vary. Asian Studies 378 and 379 may not both be counted. Prerequisite: For Asian studies and Asian cultures and languages majors, twelve semester hours of upper-division coursework in Asian studies or Asian languages; for others, upper-division standing.
SAN 384S • Intro To Purva-Mimamsa
33160 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM MEZ B0.302
Study of various aspects and periods of Sanskrit language and culture. Specific offerings are listed in the Course Schedule. Prerequisite: Graduate standing; and Sanskrit 325L, 330, or the equivalent, or consent of instructor.
ANS 340 • Hist Of Hindu Relig Traditn
31799 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 216
(also listed as ANT 324L, HIS 364G, R S 321)
This course examines the principal themes of traditional Hinduism, the dominant religion of the Indian subcontinent. It gives special attention to the historical development of the tradition and its relation to social and cultural life in India. To the extent possible, the course will examine different forms of religious expression created within India. These include written texts which have been significant in the Hindu tradition, but they also comprise rituals that have been central to religious life, patterns of social action that embody Hindu values, and images and architecture that display the form and powers of the world.
In the interest of providing additional experience with and exposure to Sanskrit literature for students, staff, and faculty at UT, we have organized an informal Sanskrit reading group that will meet regularly (once per week) to read one of the two classical epics of India, the Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. The main purpose of the group is simply to read together a great and beautiful text in the original. We use a bilingual edition so that anyone, including those with little or no Sanskrit, can participate, if desired, but we go through the original text. All Sanskrit students, as well as the Sanskrit-curious, are invited to join us, because the second goal for the group will be to develop and strengthen the community of scholars and students interested in Sanskrit, Indian literature, and classical India. We think that means everybody and hope you find time to join us regularly or from time to time.
As A.K. Ramanujan famously wrote, "In India and Southeast Asia, no one ever reads the Rāmāyaṇa or the Mahābhārata for the first time. The stories are there, 'always already.'" ("Three Hundred Rāmāyaṇas," in Many Rāmāyaṇas, ed. Paula Richman, California, 1991, p.46). Therefore, everyone should feel free to come at any time, no preparation required, and pick up the reading wherever we happen to be. We are using the Clay Sanskrit Library edition, in this case the Ayodhyā Book translated by Sheldon Pollock. If you need the reading or have other questions, please contact Don Davis.
The group meets most Fridays from 1-2pm during terms in the Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118.
NEXT MEETING DATE: Will resume in the Spring 2017 term
WHERE WE ARE AT: Ayodhyā 20.7