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Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Sweet Lord: Comparative Religious Literature as Social Corrective

Here's the best live version of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," the inspiration for the title of my lecture below:


The genius of this song is that it combines Hare Krishna-style chanting with American call-and-response gospel/R&B (via his ripping off the Chiffons) and turns it into something new and exciting.

I recorded this lecture a couple of years ago for a World Literature 1 course. I mostly discuss the stunning synchronicity between two literary masterpieces, The Book of Job and The Bhagavad Gita:



If you go back far enough, there is no distinction between literature and scripture. There are many reasons for this, but I'll save that for some other time. If you open up Volume A of The Norton Anthology of Literature you'll find stories and poems from the Old Testament, sacred Egyptian and Sumerian traditions, The Bhagavad Gita, and so on. Whenever I teach World Lit 1, I like to pair readings from across cultures and time periods so that students can see the similarities and differences.

One thing I've noticed is that The Book of Job and The Bhagavad Gita have the same core message. I thought of this today after reading about Kentucky Republican gubernatorial nominee David Williams accusing his opponent of being anti-Christian for attending a Hindu ceremony. I've posted the above lecture as a correction.

Two very important books in these respective religions have the same basic message, regardless of what we might think of it. If David Williams really thinks his religion is true and that Hindus are just weird, polytheistic sinners, so be it. He is, however, ignoring the obvious similarities that cut across cultures.

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