Karline McLain in her classroom.

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LEWISBURG, Pa. - Karline McLain, assistant professor of religion at Bucknell, has received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to study the legacy of Raja Ravi Varma — a late 19th century artist whose influence can be seen in today’s popular Hindu art.

The summer stipend grant, as well as an individual research grant from the American Academy of Religion, will allow McLain to travel to India for six weeks this summer. There, she will interview Hindu “god poster” artists, priests, and families.

Following her work in India, McLain will spend two weeks at Syracuse University exploring the extensive collection of 3,500 Hindu posters in the Smith Poster Archive as part of her research for “Envisioning Hinduism: Raja Ravi Varma and the Visual Canon.”

Hard to define
“Historically, Hinduism has been hard to define as a religion,” said McLain. “Scholars have studied how literature has helped to create a more unified Hindu identity, but my project argues that printed images also played a role, and that Varma’s lithographs were at the heart of this process.” Listen to McLain talk about Varma and god posters.

McLain’s inspiration for this topic came from an unusual source: Hindu comic books.

While living in Bombay in 2001 and 2002, she discovered Varma’s influence while working with comic book artists. Listen to McLain talk about her inspiration for the topic.

Classes benefit
Students in McLain’s classes have benefited from her academic curiosity, as she has been able to involve her research — and even some of her contacts — in teaching. Listen to McLain talk about incorporating her research in the classroom.

This is McLain’s second year as an assistant professor of religion at Bucknell. She has a recent publication in the journal South Asia Research discussing Mahatma Gandhi and his portrayal in an Indian comic book series, and her current book project is titled, Immortal Picture Stories: Comic Books, Religion and Identity in Modern India.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

Posted April 13, 2007


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