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This elegantly written book introduces a new perspective on Indic religious history by rethinking the role of mantra in Vedic ritual. In Bringing the Gods to Mind, Laurie Patton takes a new look at mantra as "performed poetry" and in five case studies draws a portrait of early Indian sacrifice that moves beyond the well-worn categories of "magic" and "magico-religious" thought in Vedic sacrifice. Treating Vedic mantra as a sophisticated form of artistic composition, she develops the idea of metonymy, or associational thought, as a major motivator for the use of mantra in sacrificial performance. Filling a long-standing gap in our understanding, her book provides a history of the Indian interpretive imagination and a study of the mental creativity and hermeneutic sophistication of Vedic religion.
Laurie L. Patton is Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Early Indian Religion at Emory University. She is author of Myth as Argument: The Brhaddevata as Canonical Commentary (1996), editor of Jewels of Authority: Women and Text in the Hindu Tradition (2002), and author of Fire's Goal: Poems from a Hindu Year (2003), among other books.
"In her Bringing The Gods to Mind Laurie Patton employs a rich mixture of theoretical insights to tease out the functions and meanings of the Vedic mantras within their ritual settings. With a deep understanding of not only the Vedic texts but also the later Brahmanical ritual tradition, Patton throws new and fresh light on the socio-religious history of ancient India. This is a pathbreaking study that will interest not only specialists in Indian religions but also scholars exploring the intersection between word and ritual, between speech and performance. A truly masterly tour-de-force."—Patrick Olivelle, author of The Asrama System and translator of the Upanisads, the Dharmasutras, and the Law Code of Manu
"We have long needed a poetic scholar to read Vedic mantra. Laurie Patton has given us a erudite yet highly accessible volume combining her impeccable scholarship with refined aesthetic sensibilities, recreating the meaning of Vedic hymns in the changing contexts of their actual use. Her sensitive readings of texts makes the social contexts of Vedic ritual come to life. "—V.Narayana Rao, University of Wisconsin-Madison