2002 Indic Colloquium
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Cleo Kearns

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Center for the Study of Religion
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08540

211 Hun Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08540







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Background Information

Cleo McNelly Kearns holds a Ph.D from Colubia University in comparative literature and has done post-graduate work in Biblical studies, theology and comparative religion. She is the author of T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief (Cambridge University Press and forthcoming in India in a special edition under the auspices of the Infinity Foundation) and of numerous articles on modern literature and literary theory, with a special interest in the work of Jacques Derrida. She served for several years as editor of the Cultural Criticism series of the American Academy of Religion, and during her tenure she published two books on the intersections between Indic traditions and recent trends in postmodern philosophy, including pragmatism and deconstruction. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at Princeton's Center for the Study of Religion.


Indic Traditions, American Literature and the Third Point of View

I outline below a preliminary statement of the kind of contribution I think I might be able to make to the conference and its aims. There are several points at which I think I might enter the discussion:

  1. By articulating the grounds and evidence for the argument that Indic traditions have been vital to American literature and philosophy from at least the nineteenth century to today, in ways that the conventional presentation of American intellectual and cultural history profoundly underestimate.

  2. By reviewing the intersections between Indic philosophy and current trends in continental philosophy and literary theory, intersections that result both from direct Indic influence and from confluences of thought and observation.

  3. By discussing the extraordinary power and prevalence of reductive and secularist approaches to the Western canon and to Indic and other texts of world literature in literary studies today, and the resulting ignorance of what your project is calling the Inner Sciences which these literatures encode and without which they cannot be fully understood.

  4. By suggesting the kinds of study that might re-open the books on these literatures as repositories of an enormous and potentially global storehouse of spiritual techniques and practices which, while they cannot be reduced to some perennial philosophy or normative science, can nevertheless be usefully collated and compared.

  5. By arguing more strongly that I have yet seen articulated on the website for the addition of the category of the aesthetic to your list of fields included by adhyatmavidya and by discussing how aesthetic issues might be articulated in terms of the agenda of the Global Renaissance.

Read the entire paper in PDF format (28K, 6 pp.)

Passages from Thoreau and Eliot for discussion (in PDF format, 19K, 3 pp.)