January 2, 2014 at 8:30 am

Gawande Lecture Series: When Blindness Makes for Sight, Feb. 21

The Gawande Lecture Series presents “When Blindness Makes for Sight,” a talk by Professor John Stratton Hawley on  Friday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. in Baker Center Room 231.

Dr. John Stratton Hawley

Dr. John Stratton Hawley

Hawley is Professor of Religion in Barnard College at Columbia University

About the Talk: It is quite rare for a Hindi poet to be depicted in manuscript illustrations of the works he is believed to have composed. Yet this happens with Surdas (16th century), the great blind poet of the Hindi language family. Is it Surdas’s blindness that makes it possible for us to see him? The great word here is darshan, that special quality of sight that matters so much to Hindus. Aesthetically speaking, how does Surdas offer us darshan— and then, how do his illustrators do the same in a visual medium, not a verbal one?

About the Guest: Prof. Hawley has written or edited sixteen books, including At Play with Krishna; Krishna, the Butter Thief; Songs of the Saints of India; The Life of Hinduism; Sati: The Blessing and the Curse; and Devi: Goddesses of India. Hawley’s latest published book on devotional poetry in India is The Memory of Love: Surdas Sings to Krishna. It contains selections from his largest and longest-standing work, Sur’s Ocean (forthcoming). His current major project, a book called India’s Real Religion: The Idea of the Bhakti Movement, is devoted to deconstructing and reconstructing one of the principal ways in which Indians have told their religious history. Its focus is bhakti: the religion of song, of radical engagement, and of the heart. Aside from publishing prolifically, Prof. Hawley has also served as director of Columbia University’s South Asian Institute and has received multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian, and the American Institute of Indian Studies. He has also been a Guggenheim Fellow. Read more about him on his webpage or at



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