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Kathleen Erndl

Associate Professor of Religion

Departmental Area: History and Ethnography of Religion
Research Areas: Hindu Goddesses, Women in Hinduism, Hindu-Muslim Interactions, Indian Cinema and Religion

Department of Religion
641 University Way / P.O. Box 3061520
The Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520
Office: 313 Dodd Hall
Email: kerndl@fsu.edu
Office Hours: By appointment



Kathleen M. Erndl (Ph.D. '87, University of Wisconsin, South Asian Language and Literature: Religions of South Asia) teaches in the field of South Asian religions, especially Hinduism, as well as gender and religion, popular Hindi cinema, and Sanskrit. Professor Erndl's publications include Victory to the Mother: The Hindu Goddess of Northwest India in Myth, Ritual and Symbol (Oxford, 1993), a co-edited collection of essays entitled Is the Goddess a Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (New York University Press and Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), and articles on Sakta traditions, spirit possession, women's religious expressions, methodology, gender issues in Hinduism, and religion in Indian Cinema. She is currently writing a book entitled The Play of the Mother: Women, Goddess Possession, and Power in Hinduism. Other research interests include interactions among Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists in India, cross-cultural appropriations of Indian goddesses in North America, Hinduism in the Caribbean, and Bollywood. Professor Erndl has been the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright-Hayes, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.


Recent Publications

Erndl, Kathleen M. (2013) "Woman Becomes Goddess in Bollywood: Justice, Violence, and the Feminine in Popular Hindi Film," Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 17: Iss. 2, Article 1. Available at: http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol17/iss2/1

Erndl, Kathleen M. (forthcoming) “Religious and National Identity in My Name is Khan.” Journal of Religion and Film, Special Issue. Turkish language translation to be published by Centre for Values Education, Istanbul.

Recent Courses

Spring 2016

REL3333        Ramayana in Indian Culture 
This course is an introduction to the Hindu tradition through the Ramayana, one of its most popular and celebrated sacred texts. The Ramayana, also known as the Rama-katha (story of Rama), narrates the exile of Prince Rama, who is accompanied into the forest by his wife Sita and brother Laksmana. After Sita's abduction by the demon Ravana, Rama, aided by his monkey-ally Hanuman, must go to battle to rescue her. But this skeletal summary cannot begin to do justice to the many tellings of Rama-katha that have been composed, recited, sung, written, performed, danced, portrayed in art, and have influenced political events throughout India, Asia, and beyond. In this course, we focus on the most well known literary version, composed in the Sanskrit language by the ancient poet Valmiki, and on the now classic 1980’s televised Hindi language serial version directed by Ramanand Sagar, though we will also consider other versions. Focus on the Ramayana will lead to a consideration of broader religious, philosophical, aesthetic, and political themes in the Hindu tradition. The Ramayana has seven “books” (kandas), each of which will serve as a window to selected Hindu concepts and issues. No background in either the Ramayana or in Hinduism is presumed.  Meets the Liberal Studies Cultural Practice (Humanities) and Multicultural X requirements.

REL4359-01 / RLG5354-01   Spec Topics in Asian Religions: Banned Books in South Asia  
Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs.” Appeals to this and similar sections of the IPC have been used, on occasion successfully, to ban books in India on the grounds that they offend the religious sensibilities of a particular community.  Similar laws exist in other countries of South Asia, and throughout the world.  This course will focus on selected works of fiction and scholarship, dealing with religious issues in some way, that have generated controversy in South Asia. 

RLG5354-01  Sp Topics Asian REL: Banned Books  

RLG 5915       Sanskrit Texts
Sanskrit, known as the “language of the gods", is a classical language of India and scriptural language for Hinduism and Buddhism.  As a member of the Indo-European linguistic family, it is related to Greek, Latin, and English, as well as to languages of modern India such as Hindi, Marathi, and Bengali.   Building on skills learned previously, students will increase their speed and confidence in reading Sanskrit texts of increasing difficulty.  Writing, grammar, oral recitation, and pronunciation are also emphasized.  May be repeated for up to 12 hours of credit. For continuing students only; permission of instructor is required. 

Fall 2015

IFS3050            India Through Bollywood (Bryan Hall students only)
How is India “imagined” through popular cinema? India is the world’s largest democracy, one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, and also has the world’s largest film industry.  In this course, we examine Indian identity, cultural, and religious values as expressed in film. The popular cinema produced in Bombay (now Mumbai), dubbed “Bollywood,” will predominate, spanning the period from Indian and Pakistani Independence (1947) to the 21stcentury. Topics for discussion will include love and separation, gender roles, relationships between divine and human, sensuality and renunciation, caste and class identity, the state, diaspora, the quest for ultimate truth….and, of course, music, dance, and stardom! Films will be screened weekly in Hindi with English subtitles.  No previous knowledge of Indian culture or cinema is assumed.  Attendance is required at the weekly film screening as well as the lecture/discussion class.   Meets the new Liberal Studies-Cultural Practice, E-Series, and cross-cultural (X) requirements.

RLG5035            Introduction to the Study of Religion
This seminar explores the theoretical and methodological foundations of the academic study of religion. We will examine arguments and evidence on which scholars ground the assumption that religion exists (or not) as an object of study and that, as a result, religious studies exists (or not) as a viable academic discipline. Our approach will be critical. We will examine religion as a heuristic category and religious studies as a form of interdisciplinary research in which authors have explored ritual and symbolic concerns as much as themes just as easily labeled economic, historical, political, or social.

RLG5915            Sanskrit Texts
Readings in Sanskrit at intermediate and advanced levels, for continuing Sanskrit students.  May be repeated for credit.