Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Martha Selby

ProfessorPh.D., University of Chicago

Martha Selby


  • Phone: 512-475-6040
  • Office: WCH 4.134A
  • Office Hours: Fall 2015: W 2-5 and by appointment
  • Campus Mail Code: G9300


Representations of women, birth, and disease in classical Indian medicine. Sanskrit poetry and poetics, Prakrit and Old Tamil poetry, and Sanskrit medical literature.


Courses taught:
Undergraduate: Gender/Sex/Family in Indian Religion/Culture; Goddesses in World Religions and Cultures; Senior Seminar: Death in Asia;
Advanced Sanskrit Readings and Composition; Senior Seminar: Death, Dying, and the Afterlife in South and East Asia

Graduate: A Critical Approach to the Study of South Asian Texts; Classical Indian Literature in Translation; Translating Indian Texts:History and Method; Advanced Sanskrit Readings and Composition; Translating India



ANS 384 • Body In Indian Medicine/Myth

32015 • Fall 2014
Meets T 200pm-500pm PAR 214
(also listed as ANT 391)

Study of various aspects and periods of South Asian culture and society.  Specific offerings are listed in the Course Schedule.  Prerequisite: Graduate standing; additional prerequisites vary with the topic and are given in the Course Schedule.

SAN 384S • Adv Readings In Sanskrit

32835 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 930am-1100am CBA 4.342

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 388M • Translating India

31820 • Spring 2013
Meets W 200pm-500pm UTC 1.136


Professor Martha Ann Selby

ANS 388/C L 380M

Course Description


This graduate-level seminar will introduce students to the craft of literary translation through a wide variety of approaches.  Over the course of the semester, we will read various tracts, articles, and books on the theory and craft of translation from a wide range of Euro-American and South Asian stances and viewpoints.  We will analyze editions of various classics from India that have been translated into English repeatedly, paying particular attention to the political nature of the act and art of translation in its colonial and post-colonial contexts.  This seminar will also have a practical component, and one hour of our meeting period each week will allow students to present translations-in-progress to their peers for comment and critique.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing required.  Students must have a good working knowledge of at least one South Asian language, classical and/or modern.

Texts and readings:

 Bassnett, Susan and Harish Trivedi, eds.  Post-Colonial Translation: Theory and Practice

 Eco, Umberto.  Experiences in Translation

 Niranjana, Tejaswini.  Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism, and the Colonial Context

 Ramanujan, A. K. Speaking of Shiva

 Steiner, George.  After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation

 Course Packet (available at Paradigm)


 Class participation: 25%

 1 research paper (10-15 pages) on the translation history of the South Asian text of your choice, due mid-semester: 25%

 Final translation project (length may vary), comprising a translation of a section of text, a work of short fiction, or a group of poems, including a practical introductory essay on translation theory and technique: 50%

ANS 384 • Body In Indian Medicine & Myth

31615 • Fall 2011
Meets M 200pm-500pm UTC 1.142
(also listed as R S 394T)


ANS 384

Professor Martha Ann Selby


What does it mean to inhabit a body in India?  This is the primary question that we will attempt to answer during the course of the semester in this seminar (graduate standing is required).  The readings and discussion over the course of the term will parallel the development of the human being from conception, infancy and childhood, adulthood and sexuality, and ending with aging and death.  We will take an interdisciplinary approach, and will examine textual materials from an extensive range of sources and time periods.  Sources will include selections from medical literature from India’s Āyurvedic traditions as well as readings from religious narratives that deal directly with issues of embodiment and provide powerful metaphors for it.  We will also be drawing largely on sociological and anthropological studies of the different forms that embodiment takes, from metaphysical issues on what it means to be “alive” or “dead” and the human body’s connection to land and landscape to careful explorations of the body’s outer surfaces in terms of ritual, ascetic, and strictly sartorial concerns with adornment and fashion.  We will also explore the fascinating interfaces between bodybuilding and nation building in India.

Each week, one student will serve as discussion leader and provide the other seminar participants with an 8 to 10-page “topics paper” in advance.  Two other students will be asked to respond with a formal written commentary of 2 to 3 pages, and discussion will proceed from there.  Formal presentations of research in progress will be held during the final 2 weeks of the semester.


1.         Wujastyk, Dominik.  The Roots of Ayurveda.

2.         Langford, Jean.  Fluent Bodies: Ayurvedic Remedies for Postcolonial Imbalance.

3.         Daniel, E. Valentine.  Fluid Signs: Being a Person the Tamil Way.

4.         Kakar, Sudhir.  Shamans, Mystics and Doctors.

5.         Lamb, Sarah.  White Saris and Sweet Mangoes: Aging, Gender, and Body in North India.

6.         Barrett, Ron.  Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in North India.

7.         Parry, Jonathan.  Death in Banaras.

8.         Arnold, David.  Colonizing the Body.

9.         Readings packet (this will include translations of primary texts and a number of articles and chapters from book-length studies)


1 topics paper (8 to 10 pages in length) plus presentation                       20%

2  reaction papers (2 to 3 pages in length) plus presentation                   30% total (15% each)

Formal oral presentation on research paper in progress              20%

Final research paper (20 to 30 pages in length)                          30%

ANS 340 • Goddesses In World Relig/Cul

30910 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 1100-1230pm BUR 224




ANS 340/ANT 324L/R S 373/WGS 340


Unique numbers: 30910/30300/44540/48400


Spring 2010


Professor Martha Ann Selby

Department of Asian Studies

Office: W. C. Hogg 5.114

Phone: 512-475-6040

Office hours: Tuesdays 2-5 P.M. or by appointment



TA: Blaire Schultz

Office: TBA





“Goddesses never die.  They slip in and out of the world’s cities, in and out of our dreams, century after century, answering to different names, dressed differently, perhaps even disguised, perhaps idle and unemployed, their official altars abandoned, their temples feared or simply forgotten…”.


--Phyllis Chesler

Women and Madness


This course will provide a historical and cross-cultural overview of the relationship between feminine and religious cultural expressions through comparative examinations and analyses of various goddess figures in world religions.  We will begin our study in Asia; specifically in India, where goddess worship is a vital part of contemporary Hinduism in all parts of the subcontinent.  From the goddesses of the Hindu tradition (K?l´ and Lak·m´, for example), we will move on to female figures in the Buddhist Mah?y?na pantheon (such as Kuan-Yin, popular in China, Korea, and Japan), and then on to some of the goddesses of western antiquity (Inanna, Isis, Athena, and Aphrodite), including a brief consideration of Mary in her various goddess aspects.  We will end the course with a close study of “neo-pagan” goddess worship in America.  Issues relating to gender, sexuality, power, and violence (domestic and political) will be emphasized as themes throughout the course.





1.         Regular attendance.  Please do not miss class!  It’s as simple as that.  I have an extremely strict attendance policy.  You are allowed three unexcused absences over the course of the semester.  After that, I will require written documentation of any absence, be it due to illness, a death in the family, car accidents, and so on.  For each unexcused absence after your allowed number, I will deduct half a grade-point from your final grade.  Attendance is not a “part of your grade” per se, but if you skip class repeatedly, it will hurt you in the long run.


2.         Classroom comportment.  First of all, all of my courses are “unplugged,” so to speak.  Please TURN OFF your cell phones and pagers before I begin to lecture.  If your cell phone rings during class, or if you are caught text-messaging, I will ask you to leave the room.  Though these devices have made our lives much more convenient, I will not tolerate phone calls or other sorts of messages from your parents, significant others, or friends during class time.  I also do not condone the use of laptops for in-class note-taking.  Please buy a spiral notebook – I am sure that you all remember how to use a pen.  If you feel that you MUST USE a laptop to take notes, you will be monitored to make sure that you are actually taking notes and not surfing the web or reading your e-mail.  Also please note that I will not tolerate any sort of plagiarism or other sorts of cheating in my class.  I am an expert at tracking down plagiarists, and if I catch anyone indulging in academic dishonesty, I will ask that you withdraw from the class, and I will prosecute you.  If you have any questions about the use of sources, please ask me.


3.         Readings.  The main readings will be assigned from the texts listed below.  All of your textbooks are on reserve at the Perry-Casta?eda Library.  Your textbooks are available for purchase at the University Co-op Bookstore, but if you are on a budget, feel free to patronize Amazon or other on-line sources.


Required books:


Kinsley, David.  The Goddesses’ Mirror: Visions of the Divine from East and West.


Pintchman, Tracy.  The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition.


Hawley, John Stratton, ed.  Sat´, the Blessing and the Curse: The Burning of Wives in India.


Cabez?n, Jose Ignacio, ed.  Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender.


Shaw, Miranda.  Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism.


Adler, Margot.  Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and other Pagans in America.


4.         Quizzes.  There will be four in-class quizzes at regularly-spaced intervals throughout the semester.


5.         Paper.  You will be required to write one 7 to 10-page paper on the topic of your choice as long as it is within the scope of class content, though I will provide you with a list of topic “possibilities” in the sixth week of the semester.  Although I encourage you to stay within the bounds of the topics list, you may choose your own topic as long as you clear it with me first.  The paper will be due in class on the last day we meet (i.e., Thursday, May 6th).




Your topics paper is very important, as it is worth 60% of your final grade.  Your quizzes are each worth 10% of your final grade.  Please note that grades are entirely and absolutely non-negotiable – I will not tolerate any whining about grades.  I do NOT give extra credit.  I do NOT issue incompletes, unless you are desperately ill and can provide me with a doctor’s note.








January 21st: Orientation and introduction to the course.




January 26th: “An Overview and Introduction to the Idea of Feminine Divinity in the Hindu Tradition.”  Read Kinsley, pp. ix-xix and Pintchman, pp. 1-18.


January 28th: “The Vedic Female Demiurge: Goddess or Concept?”  Read Pintchman, pp. 19-59.




February 2nd: FILM: “Wedding of the Goddess, Part I” and discussion.


February 4th: “Matter, Illusion, Power: The Philosophical Feminine in Early Hindu Thought.”  Read Pintchman, pp. 61-115.




February 9th:  “The Role of Goddesses in Classical Hindu Cosmogonies.”  Read Pintchman, pp. 117-143.


February 11th: QUIZ I (over Pintchman, pp. 1-143).  “The Goddess as Wife and Consort in Classical Hinduism.”  Read Pintchman, pp. 144-184.




February 16th: “Durg?, Warrior Goddess and Cosmic Queen.”  Read Kinsley, pp. 3-24.


February 18th: “Lak·m´, Goddess of Abundance and Good Luck.”  Read Kinsley, pp. 53-70.




February 23rd: FILM: Wedding of the Goddess, Part II” and discussion.


February 25th: “S´t?, the Ideal Wife.”  Read Kinsley, pp. 91-110.  PAPER TOPICS WILL BE DISTRIBUTED.




March 2nd: QUIZ II (over Durg?, Lak·m´, and S´t?).  FILM: “Dev´,” Part I.


March 4th: FILM: “Dev´,” Part II.




March 9th: “The Iconographies of Sat´ and the Sat´ Tradition in Rajasthan.”  Read Hawley, pp. 3-53 and pp. 79-98.


March 11th: “The Implications and Symbols of the Roop Kanwar Case.”  Read Hawley, pp. 101-172.




WEEK 10:


March 23rd: FILM: “Father, Son, and Holy War: Trial by Fire” and discussion.


March 25th: FILM: “Father, Son, and Holy War: Hero Pharmacy” and discussion.


WEEK 11:


March 30th: “Gender Issues and Early Buddhist History.”  Read Cabez?n, pp. 3-29 and Shaw, pp. 3-34.


April 1st:  “Gender-switching and the Mystery of Kuan-Yin, a Mah?y?na Bodhisattva.”  Read Kinsley, pp. 25-51 and Cabez?n, pp. 159-192.


WEEK 12:


April 6th:  “Women in Tantric Theory and Circles.”  Read Shaw, pp. 35-100.


April 8th:  “Women in Tantric History and Relationships: Intimacy and Enlightenment.”  Read Shaw, pp. 101-178.


WEEK 13:


April 13th:  QUIZ III (on Shaw).  “Goddesses of Western Antiquity I: Inanna and Isis.”  Read Kinsley, pp. 113-138 and pp. 165-183.


April 15th:  “Goddesses of Western Antiquity II: Athena and Aphrodite.”  Read Kinsely, pp. 139-164 and pp. 185-214.


WEEK 14:


April 20th:  “A Mary Miscellany.” Read Kinsley, pp. 215-260.


April 22nd: QUIZ IV (over Kinsley, pp. 113-138, 165-183, and 215-260). “Paganism, Neo-paganism, and the Pagan Worldview.”  Read Adler, pp. 3-35.


WEEK 15:


April 27th: “On Witches, ‘the Craft,’ and the Wiccan Revival.”  Read Adler, pp. 39-155.


April 29th: Guest lecture.  Speaker TBA.


WEEK 16:


May 4th:  “Neo-paganism, Feminism, and Men’s Movements in America.”  Read Adler, pp. 178-239 and pp. 355-371. 


May 6th:  “Appropriating the Past and Constructing the Future.”  Read Adler, pp. 243-334.  TOPICS PAPERS DUE IN CLASS.  NO EXCEPTIONS.


ANS 372 • Gend/Sex/Fam Indian Rel/Culs-W

30540 • Spring 2009
Meets MWF 900-1000 GAR 0.132
(also listed as ANT 324L, WGS 340)

May be repeated for credit when the topics vary.  Some topics partially fulfill legislative requirement for American history.  Prerequisite: Varies with the topic and is given in the Course Schedule.

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