Teaching Sanskrit at SLACs

Recently I tried to gather, on my own, information about which small liberal arts colleges (SLACs) in the United States teach Sanskrit. I was unable to find any centralized place where such a list is kept. Through some Googling, I was able to identify a few colleges and email with some instructors. I thought that maybe others would be interested in this information, and perhaps sharing their own college’s experience? Or perhaps someone knows of a website with this information?

The reason for my interest in this question is because we have students at Yale-NUS College who want to learn Sanskrit, but it’s administratively challenging to set up and support such a program for small numbers of students. Currently, we have students doing some distance learning with Yale University, some students who go to Rangjung Yeshe Institute over the summer, and I’ve done both formal independent studies and informal reading groups with the students. All of our students read the Rāmāyaṇa and the Bhagavad Gītā in translation during their first year along with some Nyāya, Vedānta, and Buddhist philosophy. I think this has spurred a lot of their interest in learning Sanskrit, along with having Amber Carpenter and Gavin Flood on faculty.

So, based on cursory initial research, I found the following four SLACs that teach Sanskrit, and was able to talk to the instructors at many of them:

The Five College Consortium (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, UMass Amherst) also offers Sanskrit, but through UMass Amherst, which isn’t an SLAC. I’m sure I’ve missed other schools. Please add yours in the comment, whether small liberal arts or any other kind (US and elsewhere!). I think we all know which major research universities teach Sanskrit, but it might be useful to know who else is teaching in other contexts.

About Malcolm Keating

Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Humanities Division at Yale-NUS College, Singapore.

6 Replies to “Teaching Sanskrit at SLACs”

  1. Thank you for doing this work, Malcolm. It looks like it will be really useful.

    One thing to keep in mind is that at some schools, what happens is that a professor does independent studies in Sanskrit because there isn’t an official course on the books or it has been put on the backburner. That is how I started Sanskrit at Rutgers with Ed Bryant, as an independent study in the Religion dept.

  2. I teach first year Sanskrit at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada every three years. We use Deshpande’s grammar. We do a third semester course when numbers are high enough. (This has happened twice.) I have also run small translation groups for more advanced students. This summer I am experimenting with an online Sanskrit group with a small group of advanced students.

    • Hi Chris, I will be interested to hear how the online Sanskrit goes. We do video conference with Yale through Zoom here, and it is challenging for the beginners sometimes, since the instructor can’t necessarily hear if they’ve said “a” or “ā”, and teaching them Devanāgarī is difficult, too. But with advanced students, it may be different.

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