Seminar Director

Richard H. Davis

As Director of the Summer Seminar, Richard H. Davis brings thirty years of undergraduate teaching experience in Asian studies and religious studies to the seminar.  The Bhagavad Gita figures regularly in his college courses, and he has frequently read the text in Sanskrit classes with students.  In 2007, he was invited to contribute a short volume on the Bhagavad Gita for a new Princeton University Press series, Lives of Great Religious Books.  The series explores how major works of religious literature have continued to live and grow through reception and interpretation.  His research revealed another side of the Gita’s life.  The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography (2014) set out some of the main periods and directions in the interpretative history of the work, with special attention to its modern life. He continues to work on the history of the Bhagavad Gita, focusing on specific modern readers such as Charles Wilkins, Henry David Thoreau, and Mahatma Gandhi.  This NEH Summer Seminar will make use of his ongoing research in this area, and provide an opportunity to learn from the seminar participants.

Davis is currently Professor in the Religion and Asian Studies Programs at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY(1997-present).  Formerly he taught as assistant and associate professor at Yale University (1986-97).  In addition to his work on the Bhagavad Gita, he is author of four other books: Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshiping Siva in Medieval India (Princeton, 1991), Lives of Indian Images (Princeton, 1997), Global India, circa 100 CE: South Asia in Early World History (AAS, 2010), and A Priest's Guide for the Great Festival (Oxford, 2010).  He has edited two volumes, and wrote the text for a catalog of Indian religious prints, Gods in Print: Masterpieces of India’s Mythological Art (Mandala, 2012).  He has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the NEH, Fulbright-Hayes, and others.