Exploring the Wonders of Vietnam

photo by Eleftherios Kostans
  About Steven Hopkins

Associate Professor of Religion Steven Hopkins earned a B.A. in English literature from the University of CaliforniaŠSanta Barbara in 1976 and an M.A. in religious studies from that same institution in 1982. After doing doctoral work in language studies at the University of CaliforniaŠBerkeley, he received a Ph.D. in the comparative study of religion from Harvard University in 1995. He has taught at Swarthmore since 1993.

Hopkins is a published author and poet. In addition to poems in literary journals over the years, his book of fiction The Leaving: Three Stories was published in 1978 by Mudborn Press, Santa Barbara. He received the Eisner Prize in Literature at Berkeley and a poetry prize from the Dudley Review at Harvard.

His main academic field is south Indian devotional literature in Sanskrit and Tamil, with special attention to the work of the 14th-century south Indian saint-poet Vedantadesika. Besides Singing the Body of God: The Hymns of Vedantadesika in Their South Indian Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2002) and several articles on south Indian devotional poetry, he co-edited, with John B. Carman, the book Tracing Common Themes: Comparative Courses in the Study of Religion (Scholars Press, 1991).

His most recent scholarly work An Ornament for Jewels: Love Poems for the Lord of Gods by Vedantadesika is forthcoming in 2006 from Oxford University Press, New York. He is also at work on a long-term project on space, time, love, and memory in Sanskrit sandesa-kavyas- "messenger poems"-in medieval south Asia and a comparative book on religious transformations of the love lyric from southern France to south India.

Hopkins' classes at Swarthmore range widely and are often comparative: He teaches courses on the history, religion, and culture of India, with an emphasis on Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Islamic traditions. These include Buddhist Traditions of Asia and Patterns of Asian Religion, a comparative course that touches upon south and east Asian traditions, with units on Confucian and Taoist traditions in China and Shinto and Zen Buddhist traditions in Japan. He also teaches comparative courses on the themes of love and religion and religion and literature as well as the course The Power of Images, which examines Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. In addition, he has taught a seminar on the poetry and prophecies of William Blake.

Hopkins has traveled and done extensive research in south India-primarily Tamil Nadu and Karnataka-and has also visited parts of north India, Sri Lanka, and Japan. This will be his first trip to Vietnam. He observes that Vietnam is a country "whose history is religiously very rich and multifarious, combining in a distinctive, often eclectic way various religious traditions-from Chinese-influenced Mahayana Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist traditions to various local "animistic" and ancestral ritual traditions, including an emphasis on hero and other particular spirit cults. We will be seeing a huge panoply of religious expressions on our journey, ranging from Cham, Hindu, and Buddhist histories at My Son near Da Nang; Confucian and Taoist ritual traditions of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi; the Cao Dai Great Temple in Tay Ninh, home of one of the most striking of Vietnam's new religious movements that blends Catholic, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions; to the Tamil Hindu Mariyamman (goddess) temple in Ho Chi Minh City, constructed by Tamils in the late 19th century."

About This Site

In January 2006, a 40-person contingent of Swarthmoreans is traveling to Vietnam as members of the Alumni College Abroad. The trip, led by Associate Professor of Religion Steven Hopkins, will focus on the history, religion, and the vibrant culture of contemporary Vietnam. A smaller contingent will accompany Hopkins to Cambodia, including a tour of the famous temples of Angkor Wat.

Jeffrey Lott, editor of the Swarthmore College Bulletin, has joined the trip to write about it for the magazine. This site is a series of reports filed by Jeff from Vietnam and Cambodia during the trip. Your responses are invited.

Vietnam 2006 Itinerary

List of Travelers

Respond to these posts

Blog Entries

Leaving Tomorrow: Jan 9, 2006
From 35,000 feet: Jan 11, 2006
Ho Chi Minh City: Jan 12, 2006
Museums of Vietnam: Jan 14, 2006
Temples and Tunnels: Jan 16, 2006
Stories and a Poem: Jan 17, 2006
Skipping School: Jan 18, 2006
Dateline Hanoi: Jan 19, 2006
Three Days in Hanoi: Jan 20, 2006
Winding Down: Jan 26, 2006
Poor Phnom Penh: Jan 27, 2006
Chuc Mung Nam Moi: Jan 29, 2006