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Wendy Doniger
Born 1940 (age 69–70)
New York, New York
Residence Chicago, Illinois, United States
Citizenship United States United States
Fields History of Religions, Hinduism
Institutions University of Chicago
Alma mater Harvard University
Oxford University
Doctoral advisor Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Sr.
Doctoral students Over 100, including:
David Gordon White,
Jeffrey Kripal,
David Dean Shulman,
Laurie Patton

Wendy Doniger (O'Flaherty) (born in New York City, November 20, 1940) is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Committee on Social Thought. She has taught at the University of Chicago since 1978.

Much of her work is focused on translating, interpreting and comparing elements of Hindu mythology through modern contexts of gender, sexuality and identity.According to her "Every Hindu Myth Is Different,All hindu myths are alike"[1]. She has been called "one of the most distinguished mythologists of our time".[2] Alluding to her Classical training, she is a Sanskritist,indeed a recovering Orientalist[3] and "an old-fashioned philologist".[4]



Doniger was born in New York City to immigrant non-observant Jewish parents, and raised in Great Neck NY, where her father, Lester L Doniger (1909-1971), ran a publishing business. While in high school, she studied dance under George Balanchine and Martha Graham. She graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1962, and received her M.A. from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in June 1963. She next studied in India in 1963-64 with a 12-month Junior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies. She received her first Ph.D., in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, from Harvard University in June 1968; and her second, a D. Phil. in Oriental Studies from Oxford University, in February 1973. She has since been awarded six honorary doctorates: the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Kalamazoo College, Michigan, January 18, 1985; the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Bard College, May 25, 1996; the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Washington and Lee University, June 5, 1997; the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Northwestern University, June 18, 1999; the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Lehigh University, May 18, 2009; and the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Harvard University, June 4, 2009.[5]

Doniger has taught at Harvard,Yale, Oxford, the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, the University of California at Berkeley, and, since 1978, at the University of Chicago, where she is at present the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, in the Divinity School, the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Committee on Social Thought.

Doniger has served on the editorial board of History of Religions since 1979. She is also a member of the Advisory Editorial Board of International Journal of Hindu Studies, and has served in an official editorial capacity to: Journal of the American Academy of Religion (associate editor), 1977-82; Berkeley Religious Studies Series (advisory editor), 1979-83; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, publication series in religion (advisory editor), 1979-85; Delegate for history of religions, Oxford University Press, New York, 1984-1996; SUNY series on Kashmiri Saivism (advisory editor), 1983-88; Editorial Advisory Board, Asian Religious Studies Information Bibliography, SUNY Institute for the Advanced Study of World Religions, 1985-90; Editor of Hinduism Series, SUNY Press, 1989-; Corresponding Editor, South Asia Research, 1994-; and Editorial Board, Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition.[6]

In 1984 she was elected President of the American Academy of Religion,in 1988 she was invited to give the first mircea eliade lecture in the history of religions at western mishigan university in kalamazoo[7], in 1989 a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 1996 a Member of the American Philosophical Society, and in 1997 President of the Association for Asian Studies. She serves on the International Editorial Board of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In 1986 she was awarded the Radcliffe Medal; in 1992 the Medal of the Collège de France; in June 2000, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for excellence in multi-cultural literature, non-fiction, for Splitting the Difference; and in October, 2002, the Rose Mary Crawshay prize from the British Academy, for the best book about English literature written by a woman, for The Bedtrick. In 2004, she was invited to give the Stanford Presidential Lecture in the Humanities and Arts. Her lecture was entitled, "Self-Imitation in Ancient India, Shakespeare, and Hollywood"[8] The Graham School of General Studies of the University of Chicago gave her the award for Excellence in Teaching in Graduate Studies, November 10, 2007, and the American Academy of Religion awarded her the 2008 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.


Since she began writing in the 1960s, Doniger's work both in Hinduism and other fields has been well received by many in the academic community. Her books are positively reviewed by many Indian scholars such as Vijia Nagarajan[9] and some American Hindu scholars such as Lindsey B. Harlan, who noted as part of a positive review that "Doniger's agenda is her desire to rescue the comparative project from the jaws of certain proponents of postmodernism".[10] Of her Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit, Indologist Richard Gombrich wrote: "Intellectually, it is a triumph..."[11] Gombrich called Doniger's Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva "Learned and exciting".[12] Doniger's Rigveda, a translation of 108 hymns selected from the canon, was deemed among the most reliable by Historian of religion Ioan P. Culianu[13] and deprecated as unreliable in an email by Indologist and Vedic scholar Michael Witzel.[14]

However, beginning in the early 2000s a disagreement arose within the Hindu community over whether Doniger accurately described their traditions. Christian Lee Novetzske summarizes this controversy as follows: "Wendy Doniger, a premier scholar of Indian religious thought and history expressed through Sanskritic sources, has faced regular criticism from those who consider her work to be disrespectful of Hinduism in general." He cites Doniger's use of "psychoanalytical theory" as "a kind of lightning rod for the censure these scholars receive from freelance critics and 'watch-dog' organizations that claim to represent the sentiments of Hindus."[15] Martha C. Nussbaum, concurring with Novetzske, adds that the controversy over Doniger is distinct from right-wing Hindutva concerns, because it has "no overt connection to national identity", and that it has created a sense of "guilt" among American religious scholars.[16]

Doniger's 2009 book The Hindus: An Alternative History received mainly positive reviews in the Western press, e.g. from the Library Journal[17], the Times Literary Supplement[18] and the New York Times.[19] In January 2010, the National Book Critics Circle named The Hindus as a finalist for its 2009 book awards.[20] The Hindu American Foundation protested this decision, pointing to alleged inaccuracies and bias in the book.[21], [22]


Doniger has authored 16 books; translated (primarily from Sanskrit to English) with commentary 9 other volumes, has contributed to many edited texts and has written hundreds of articles in journals, magazines and newspapers. These include New York Times Book Review, London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Times, The Washington Post, U. S. News and World Report, International Herald Tribune, Parabola, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Daedalus, The Nation, and the Journal of Asian Studies.[23]


Interpretive works

Published under the name of Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty:

  • Served as Vedic consultant and co-author, and contributed a chapter ("Part II: The Post-Vedic History of the Soma Plant," pp. 95-147) in Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, by R. Gordon Wasson (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1968). 381 pp.
  • Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva (Oxford University Press, 1973). 386 pp.
  • The Ganges (London: Macdonald Educational, 1975).
  • The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology (Berkeley: University of California, 1976). 411 pp.
  • Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). 382 pp.
  • Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984 ). 361 pp.
  • Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985). 145 pp.
  • Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes. (New York: Macmillan, 1988). 225 pp.

Published under the name of Wendy Doniger:

  • The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth. The 1996-7 ACLS/AAR Lectures. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998; 200 pp.
  • Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India. The 1996 Jordan Lectures. Chicago and London: University of London Press and University of Chicago Press, 1999. 376 pp.
  • Der Mann, der mit seiner eigenen Frau Ehebruch beging. Mit einem Kommentar von Lorraine Daston. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 1999. 150 pp.
  • The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. 599 pp. Won the Rose Mary Crawshay prize from the British Academy for the best book about English literature written by a woman, 2002.
  • La Trappola della Giumenta. Trans. Vincenzo Vergiani. Milan: Adelphi Edizione, 2003.
  • The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 272 pp.
  • The Hindus: An Alternative History. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. 789 pp.


Published under the name of Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty:

  • Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, translated from the Sanskrit. Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1975; 357 pp.
  • The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1981).
  • (with David Grene) Antigone (Sophocles). A new translation for the Court Theatre, Chicago, production of February, 1983.
  • Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism, in the series Textual Sources for the Study of Religion, edited by John R. Hinnells (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). 211 pp.
  • (with David Grene). Oresteia. A New Translation for the Court Theatre Production of 1986. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). 249 pp.

Published under the name of Wendy Doniger:

  • Mythologies. A restructured translation of Yves Bonnefoy's Dictionnaire des Mythologies, prepared under the direction of Wendy Doniger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1991). 2 vols., c. 1,500 pp.
  • The Laws of Manu. A new translation, with Brian K. Smith, of the Manavadharmasastra (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1991).
  • Vātsyāyana Kāmasūtra. A new translation by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • The Lady of the Jewel Necklace and The Lady Who Shows Her Love. Harsha’s Priyadarsika and Ratnavali. Clay Sanskrit Series. New York: New York University Press, JJC Foundation, 2006.

Edited volumes

Under the name of Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty:

  • The Concept of Duty in South Asia. Edited (with J. D. M. Derrett), with an introduction (pp. xiii-xix) and an essay ("The clash between relative and absolute duty: the dharma of demons," pp. 96-106) by W. D. O'Flaherty. (London: School of Oriental and African Studies). 240 pp.
  • The Critical Study of Sacred Texts. Edited, with an introduction (pp. ix-xiii). (Berkeley: Graduate Theological Union, Religious Studies Series, 1979). 290 pp.
  • Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Edited, with an introduction (pp. i-xv) and an essay ("Karma and rebirth in the Vedas and Puranas," pp. 1-39). (Berkeley: University of California Press; 1980). 340 pp. Reprinted, Banarsidass, 1999.
  • The Cave of Siva at Elephanta. by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Carmel Berkson, and George Michell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).
  • Religion and Change. Edited by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. History of Religions 25:4 (May, 1986).

Published under the name of Wendy Doniger:

  • Animals in Four Worlds: Sculptures from India. Photographs by Stella Snead; text by Wendy Doniger (pp. 3-23) and George Michell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).
  • Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts. Essays by David Shulman, V. Narayana Rao, A. K. Ramanujan, Friedhelm Hardy, John Cort, Padmanabh Jaini, Laurie Patton, and Wendy Doniger. Edited by Wendy Doniger. (SUNY Press, 1993). 331 pp.
  • Off with Her Head! The Denial of Women's Identity in Myth, Religion, and Culture. Ed., with Howard Eilberg-Schwartz. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
  • Myth and Method. Ed., with Laurie Patton. Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 1996.


  1. ^ Hindu myths: a sourcebook By Wendy Doniger, Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty
  2. ^ Sudhir Kakar, untitled review of Other People's Myths: The Cave of Echoes by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty The Journal of Religion, Vol. 70, No. 2 (Apr., 1990), pp. 293-294 The University of Chicago Press [1]
  3. ^ Doniger, The Hindus, 35
  4. ^ Doniger, The Bedtrick, p. xxii.
  5. ^ Doniger, Curriculum Vitae, page 2
  6. ^ Doniger, Curriculum Vitae, page 11
  7. ^ acknowlegements Other peoples' myths: the cave of echoes By Wendy Doniger
  8. ^
  9. ^ Review of The Bedtrick, Journal of Religion 84.2 (April 2004)
  10. ^ Review of The Implied Spider, Church History 68.2 (June 1999)
  11. ^ Richard Gombrich, Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty Religious Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), pp. 273-274
  12. ^ Richard Gombrich, Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty Religious Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), pp. 273-274
  13. ^ Ioan P. Culianu, "Ask Yourselves in Your Own Hearts..." History of Religions, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Feb., 1983), pp. 284-286

    That is why, with the exception of Geldner's German translation, the most reliable modern translations of the Rgveda-W. O'Flaherty's being one of them-are only partial. However, W. O'Flaherty has, in her present translation, a wider scope than other scholars-Louis Renou, for instance, whose Hymnes speculatifs du Veda are a model of accuracy-who prefer to limit their choice to one thematic set of hymns.

  14. ^ In one of a series of posts to the Indology Listserv, he summed up his critique with: "In short: UNRELIABLE and idiosyncratic."
  15. ^ Christian Lee Novetzske, "The Study of Indian Religions in the US Academy", India Review 5.1 (May 2006), 113-114
  16. ^ Martha C. Nussbaum, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 248
  17. ^ James F. DeRoche, Library Journal, 2/15/2009
  18. ^ David Arnold. "Beheading Hindus And other alternative aspects of Wendy Doniger's history of a mythology", Times Literary Supplement, July 29, 2009
  19. ^ Pankaj Mishra, "Another Incarnation", New York Times, April 24, 2009
  20. ^ [2] "National Book Critics Circle Finalists Are Announced" New York Times January 23, 2010
  21. ^ HAF Urges NBCC Not Honor Doniger's Latest Book
  22. ^
  23. ^ Doniger, Curriculum Vitae, page 5

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Annette Peach
Lucy Newlyn
Rose Mary Crawshay Prize
K. Flint
Succeeded by
Jane Stabler
Claire Tomalin


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