[INDOLOGY] The study of Sanskrit as the epitome of uselessness

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at umich.edu
Wed Mar 25 16:05:04 EDT 2020


One of the students in my elementary Sanskrit class at Michigan wrote me a
note saying the following: "I am terrified in your class that you will ask
me to formulate a sentence.  I cannot sleep for three nights before the
class and three nights after the class.  It is a dead language any way.
Why should we care?"  I have kept this note in some file.

Madhav M. Deshpande
Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Senior Fellow, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies

[Residence: Campbell, California, USA]


On Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 12:33 PM Will Sweetman via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> While I'm loving these examples of the uselessness of Sanskrit (and see
> the first chapter of Fred Hardy's The Religious Culture of India: Love,
> Power and Wisdom for another example from Canetti's Die Blendung), I'd also
> like to note something Mark Allon told me some years ago, when we
> introduced Sanskrit at Otago. Apparently in one or other of the various
> international university rankings, teaching Sanskrit was one of the things
> which elevated a university's rank. Perhaps it was a sign the university
> was wealthy enough to expend resources on something useless? A sort of
> costly signalling. The peacock's tail of academia, as it were.
>
> Best wishes to all
>
> Will
>
> On Thu, 26 Mar 2020 at 06:51, James Hartzell via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>
>> As Sanskrit students at Harvard back when Ingalls was chair, the word
>> around campus was that the Harvard Business School used Sanskrit as the
>> example of the completely useless subject
>>
>> > On 25 Mar 2020, at 18:39, Jayandra Soni via INDOLOGY <
>> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> >
>> > When in the 1980s I bought, second hand, Lanman's A Sanskrit Reader,
>> the previous owner wrote this in clear writing on p. xv below Lanman's
>> Introductory Suggestions:
>> > Quit now before it's too late!
>> >
>> > Scanned and attached the first paragraph.
>> > I didn't follow the advice to quit.
>> > Jay Soni
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > --
>> > <Written below Lanman's Introductory Suggestions.pdf>
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