March 1, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 11

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    Edward Dimock, expert on India’s Bengali language, literature, dies

    Edward Dimock, one of the most influential scholars of Indian studies in North America, died in his home in Centerville, Mass., on Thursday, Jan. 11. He was 71.

    Dimock, a Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in South Asian Languages & Civilizations, was an internationally known academic whose work centered on Bengali language and literature. His scholarly publications include The Thief of Love: Bengali Tales from Court to Village (Chicago, 1963), The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal (Chicago, 1966), and most recently, The Caitanya-Caritamrta of Krsnadasa Kaviraja (Harvard, 1999), a translation of the biography of the great Bengali saint.

    In 1999, Algonquin Books published Mr. Dimock Explores the Mysteries of the East, a personal narrative of his thoughts and experiences with India. At the time of his death, Dimock was completing Chips from a Cape Cod Pasture, a book of reflections on his connections to the region, which his family plans to publish in the future.

    Dimock, who first traveled to Calcutta with his family in 1955, is remembered by many as a father figure to the generation of American scholars who studied in India after World War II. Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and South Asian Languages & Civilizations, recalled staying at the Dimock household during her initial trip to India in 1963. “Younger scholars would sleep on his floor when they missed their trains. He fed them when their grant checks didn’t arrive and they had nothing to eat,” she said. “He was absolutely the home base for a half century of American studies in India.”

    “He knew everyone in the worlds of government, scholarship, the arts and journalism––everyone,” Doniger continued. “He introduced you to the people you needed to know to do your work and survive in India.”

    Born in Roslindale, Mass., Dimock graduated from Yale University in 1950 with a B.A. and received a Ph.D. in 1959 from Harvard University.

    Dimock joined the University faculty in 1959 as an Assistant Professor in Linguistics & Oriental Languages, and was appointed Professor in 1966.

    In addition to his numerous awards and honors, in 1992, the Indian government awarded Dimock its highest honorary degree title, Desikottama, for his work on Bengali literature. “It’s important for people to remember that Edward Dimock almost single-handedly introduced the study of Bengali to the American academy,” said Clinton Seely, Associate Professor in South Asian Languages & Civilizations. “He also was one of the founders of the South Asian department at Chicago and was much admired by his colleagues here and in India.”

    Dimock is survived by his wife, Loraine Dimock, of Centerville, Mass., his brother and sister-in-law George and Jan Dimock of Harvard, Mass., their three children and grandchildren, and his three sons, two daughters and their partners. They are Jonathan Dimock of Knoxville, Tenn., Christopher Dimock and Valerie Wohl of Chicago, Ill., Holly and Tom Charnota of Romeoville, Ill., Edward Dimock and Andrea Hrbek of Brookline, Mass., as well as Heather and Dana Pike of Centerville, Mass. Eight grandchildren also survive him.

    A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in Bond Chapel, 1025 E. 58th St. The family asks that those wishing to honor his memory support the fight against cancer or make donations to the American Institute of Indian Studies.