Philip Lutgendorf received a Ph.D. in South Asian languages and civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1987. His research focuses on popular culture and oral performance traditions in the context of medieval and modern South Asia. His topics range from literary epics and rural folklore to twentieth-century films, television serials, and mass socioreligious movements. His book The Life of a Text: Performing the Ramcaritmanas of Tulsidas (University of California Press, 1991) received the Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Prize of the Association for Asian Studies in 1993. He is currently working on a book-length study of the cult of the monkey-god Hanuman.
Abstract of paper given at Hinduism and Ecology
This talk will deal with the ambiguity of the portrayal of wilderness in the epics, as well as the implicit notion of ecology that I believe they contain. A reading of the great Sanskrit epics of ancient India--the Mahabharata and Ramayana--readily reveals the importance of wild, uncultivated terrain as a setting for heroic narrative and as a contrast to the human-ordered landscapes of city-state or countryside. This paper will seek to clarify some of the diverse functions of "the forest" as an enduring trop in Hindu epic narrative, as well as to weigh the relevance for contemporary ecological movements, or implicit epic notions of cosmological and ecological order.