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Students interested in Sanskrit or Asian religions now have the chance to undertake doctoral research at Brown. Beginning last year, the University started to accept applications to two newly added doctoral programs in Sanskrit Language and Literature and Asian Religious Traditions.

Two students have been accepted into the Sanskrit program out of a pool of nine or 10 applicants, according to James Fitzgerald, professor of classics and faculty affiliate and chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

Fitzgerald is also one of the core faculty members who worked together to design the Asian Religious Traditions program. The proposals for these programs were submitted and later approved in winter 2009 by the Graduate School. The program currently has one student who transferred from another doctoral program in the same department. She was admitted out of four or five applicants, Fitzgerald said.

Asian Religious Traditions is the third graduate program in the Department of Religious Studies, in addition to Religion and Critical Thought and Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean.

The classics department has added six Sanskrit courses on various topics including ancient Indian literature, philosophy and Sanskrit linguistic traditions to accommodate the new doctoral candidates.

These courses, together with other individualized research guidance, are run by Fitzgerald and Peter Scharf, acting chair of the South Asian Studies Faculty Group and senior lecturer in Sanskrit.

The six new Sanskrit courses are also available to the students in the South Asian Religions doctoral track, which requires applicants to have had at least two years of either Sanskrit or Hindi-Urdu.

In addition to the new Sanskrit graduate program, four undergraduate concentration tracks in Sanskrit are in the process of being approved by the Dean of the College, with the goal of making Sanskrit study more comparable to Greek and Latin, he added.

"Sanskrit is becoming established and recognized as a program of studies at equal level with other ancient languages," Scharf said.

"Sanskrit literature forms the largest body of texts prior to the invention of the printing press in the world," he said. "Their literature is composed in every discipline: mathematics, anthropology, medicine, philosophy. A lot of scientific knowledge in the Sanskrit text has yet to be communicated to the contemporary community of scholars."

"Hopefully, with this graduate program, we'll be able to integrate more with other departments," Scharf said.

Fitzgerald linked the development of these new programs to University administrators' growing interest in directing internationalization efforts towards Asia, as evidenced by the 2009-10 Year of India.

 "The University administration wants us to think globally and they have been offering a more global perspective in all the departments," said Professor of Religious Studies Susan Harvey.

"For many decades, doctoral work in religious studies at Brown has been dominated by the Western religious traditions," she added. "We are very glad and absolutely thrilled that we now have a program focused specifically on Asian religious traditions. … We have wanted it for a long time."


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