Sheldon Pollock

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Sheldon I. Pollock
Occupation Professor, Indologist

Sheldon I. Pollock is a scholar of Sanskrit, American intellectual and literary history, and comparative intellectual history. He is currently the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He was general editor of the Clay Sanskrit Library and is founding editor of the Murty Classical Library of India. Pollock has received the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award and the Government of India's Padma Sri.


Pollock completed his dissertation, "Aspects of Versification in Sanskrit Lyric Poetry," at Harvard University under Daniel H. H. Ingalls. Before taking his current position at Columbia University, Pollock was a professor at the University of Iowa and the George V. Bobrinskoy Professor of Sanskrit and Indic Studies at the University of Chicago. His publications cluster around the Rāmāyaṇa, the philosophical tradition of Mīmāṃsā (scriptural hermeneutics), and recently, the theory of rasa (aesthetic emotion). Pollock directed the Literary Cultures in History project, which culminated in a book of the same title.

Pollock has emphasized the use of Sanskrit as a language of literature and philosophy by many communities throughout South and Southeast Asia, and the expression in Sanskrit of a transregional social and political imagination (what is now often called, following Pollock, the Sanskrit cosmopolis). Pollock has also been interested in the development of vernacular literatures, in South Asia as well as in Europe. Pollock explores these themes in his monograph Language of the Gods in the World of Men.

He directs the project Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Colonialism, in which a number of scholars (including Pollock, Yigal Bronner, Lawrence McCrea, Christopher Minkowski, Karin Preisendanz, and Dominik Wujastyk) examine the state of knowledge produced in Sanskrit before colonialism. He is also editing a series of Historical Sourcebooks in Classical Indian Thought, to which he will contribute a Reader on Rasa.

Pollock has written about the history and current state of philology, both inside India and outside. He has called for practicing a "critical philology" which is sensitive to different kinds of truths: the facts of a text's production and circulation, and the various ways in which texts have been interpreted throughout history.[1]

In 2011, Yigal Bronner, Whitney Cox, and Lawrence McCrea published a collection of essays by Pollock's students and colleagues, titled South Asian Texts in History: Critical Engagements with Sheldon Pollock.


  • 'Comparison without Hegemony.' In Barbro Klein and Hans Joas, eds. The Benefit of Broad Horizons: Intellectual and Institutional Preconditions for a Global Social Science. Festschrift for Bjorn Wittrock on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday. Leiden: Brill, pp. 185-204.
  • 'What was Bhatta Nayaka Saying? The Hermeneutical Transformation of Indian Aesthetics.' In Sheldon Pollock, ed. Epic and Argument in Sanskrit Literary History: Essays in Honor of Robert P. Goldman. Delhi: Manohar, 2010, pp. 143-184.
  • The Bouquet of Rasa and the River of Rasa (Rasamañjarī and Rasataraṅgiṇī) of Bhānudatta. New York: New York University Press, 2009.
  • 'Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World.' In James Chandler and Arnold Davidson, eds. The Fate of the Disciplines. Special number of Critical Inquiry volume 35, number 4 (Summer 2009): 931-61.
  • "The Real Classical Languages Debate." The Hindu, 27 November 2008.
  • Rama's Last Act (Uttararāmacarita) of Bhavabhūti. New York: New York University Press, 2007. (Clay Sanskrit Library.)
  • The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture and Power in Premodern India. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
  • (as editor) Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ 'Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World.' In James Chandler and Arnold Davidson, eds. The Fate of the Disciplines. Special number of Critical Inquiry volume 35, number 4 (Summer 2009): 931-61.