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Course Preview: Feminine Power and Female Voices in Hindu Traditions

In theory, there’s a seat at the table for everyone in Professor McLaughlin’s “Feminine Power and Female Voices in Hindu Traditions.” In reality, students will find it hard to score a spot in this increasingly popular class. The lucky twenty or so who make it onto the roster can look forward to a semester of exciting readings and rich discussion.

The coursework centers on the agency of female goddesses, poets, and gurus from the Early Vedic period, all the way to the post-colonial era. Students will analyze philosophy, literature, and art as they uncover the role of female voices in male-dominated Hindu traditions. 

The course is a COLL 200 in the ALV and CSI domains, meaning the material highlights both artistic values and social dynamics. It is cross-listed in both the Religious Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s departments.

Professor McLaughlin identifies feminine Hindu figures as a soft entry into the hard realities of gender marginalization. The authors of the course’s primary texts operate in a society that has been predominantly patriarchal for over 3,000 years. Once students get past the cushion that abstract notions of feminine power allow, they can confront the implications of these gender dynamics for global history and for the here and now. 

In addition to a number of response essays and research papers, students will have the opportunity to lead class discussion in small groups. They’re encouraged to ask questions about the material itself, as well as its repercussions across time and space. This is why Professor McLaughlin calls the class “a two-way street”— studying feminine power in Hindu traditions forces students to reflect on female agency today, whether in their own backyards or across the globe.

Everyone has a seat at the table because every student from every major and background can grow from the study of distinct female voices in diverse traditions.