COVID-19: Essential Information

Elizabeth Morrison

Associate Professor of Religion

 work(802) 443-3438
 Fall Semester: Mondays 1:30-3 and Fridays 11:15-12:15 in person or Zoom
 Munroe Hall 210

Professor Morrison teaches courses on East Asian religious traditions, including Buddhism, Daoism, and popular religious culture in China, Japan, and Korea. Her research on the history and practice of Chinese Buddhism focuses on issues of religious authority and historiography within the Chan (Zen) school. Professor Morrison came to Middlebury College in January 2003.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1453 - Karma      

Why do things happen to us as they do? For many throughout Asia, the answer has been or is karma, the ancient Indian notion that over multiple lifetimes individuals reap the effects of past actions. We will examine this powerful idea of moral causality in depth, considering striking variations in classical Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, and compare it to other theories of causation, both religious and scientific. We will also study the wealth of practices believed to improve future lives (and ultimately lead to liberation) and investigate diverse, surprising consequences of karma in some Asian societies, including justification of social hierarchy, mistreatment of some groups, and vegetarianism. 3 hrs. sem. CW PHL SOA

Fall 2020

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FYSE 1498 - Religion and State in China      

Religion and State in China
To explore the perennial question of the relation between politics and religion, we will examine the long, rich history of this issue in China. How did the imperial state draw on religion for legitimacy and set itself up as the arbiter of religious life? How did religious communities respond? We will consult primary sources on the emperor’s role as the Son of Heaven, the imperial state’s varying views and treatment of Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, and folk religious practices, and religiously-inspired rebellions. We will conclude with attention to the cycle of persecution and revival of religion under the current regime. CW NOA PHL

Fall 2017

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INTD 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
Approval Required

Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

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RELI 0122 - The Buddhist Tradition      

The Buddhist Tradition
Buddhists “take refuge in the three jewels”: the Buddha, his teachings, and the community he founded. After a grounding in the context and content of early Buddhism, we will use texts and images to explore these three categories and what they have meant to Buddhists in different times and places. We will pay special attention to changing views of the Buddha, later developments in Buddhist thought and practice, and the spread of the Buddhist tradition throughout Asia and beyond, which has involved adaptation to a startling array of cultures and societies – as well as modernity. (Juniors and Seniors by waiver) 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. AAL CMP PHL SOA

Spring 2019

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RELI 0123 - Buddhist Tradition in EastAsia      

The Buddhist Tradition in East Asia
An introduction to the development of Buddhism within the East Asian cultural sphere of China, Korea, and Japan. We will consider continuities of thought, institution, and practice with the Indian Buddhist tradition as well as East Asian innovations, particularly the rise of the Chan/Zen and Pure Land schools. (Follows RELI 0121 but may be taken independently) 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL NOA PHL

Spring 2018

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RELI 0225 - Chinese Religions      

Chinese Religions
An introduction to the rich religious history of China, with an emphasis on primary sources. Topics will include: the ideas and practices of ancient China, the teachings of Confucius and early Taoist (Daoist) thinkers, the introduction of Buddhism to China and its adaptation to Chinese culture, the complex interaction of Buddhism with the Confucian and Taoist traditions, the role of the state in religion, the "popular" Chinese religion of local gods and festivals, and the religious scene in modern Taiwan and mainland China. 3 hrs. lect. AAL NOA PHL

Fall 2020

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RELI 0226 - Food in East Asian Religions      

Food in East Asian Religions
One might think that food and eating have nothing to do with the lofty concerns of religious traditions. In fact, many religions bring their fundamental principles to bear on the questions of what, how, and with whom to eat; many also revolve around “feeding” gods and other spiritual beings. In this course, we will examine East Asian religions through the lens of eating practices. We will study Confucian feasting and fasting, various Chinese, Korean, and Japanese rituals offerings food to ancestors and gods, Buddhist vegetarianism and its critics, unusual Taoist eating regimens, and the ancient cosmological ideas underlying traditional Chinese medical ideas of healthy eating. 3 hrs. lect. AAL NOA PHL

Spring 2022

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RELI 0228 / JAPN 0228 - Japanese Religions      

Japanese Religions
We will begin our study of Japanese religions with the ancient mythology that forms the basis of Shinto (the way of the kami, or gods). We will then consider the introduction of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism to Japan and examine how these traditions were accepted, absorbed, and adapted. We will also investigate Japanese reactions to Christianity in the 16th century and the appearance of "new" Japanese religions starting in the 19th century. Throughout, we will ask how and why Japanese have both adhered to tradition and been open to new religions. (Seniors by waiver) 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL NOA PHL

Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

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RELI 0229 - Religion in Modern China      

Persecution and Revival of Religion in Modern China
In this study of the dramatic recent religious history of China, we will begin with "modern" critics and reformers at the end of the imperial era and then consider the communist suppression of religion and the "cult of Mao." Our focus, however, will be the remarkable revival of religion since Mao's death in 1976. We will investigate the activity itself-ranging from traditional practices to new religious movements to various forms of Christianity—and the complex cultural and political dynamics involved in this "return" to religion. 3 hrs. lect. AAL NOA PHL

Fall 2018, Fall 2021

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RELI 0325 - Seminar in Buddhist Studies      

Seminar in Buddhist Studies: Buddhists and Others
The Buddha sent his students to spread his teachings, thus giving rise to the world’s first major missionary religion. As the Buddhist tradition took root across Asia, Buddhists interacted with many other religions and cultures. We will explore a series of these encounters, ranging from rivalry and opposition to cooperation to synthesis. Our goal will be to understand more deeply both the nature of the Buddhist tradition and the varied settings in which it has thrived and to which it has adapted. We will conclude with attention to the further spread of Buddhism in the modern period and its ongoing encounters with “others.” 3 hr. sem. AAL CMP NOA PHL

Fall 2018

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RELI 0472 / HIST 0472 - Buddhist/Christian Monasticism      

“The Religious Life”: Buddhist and Christian Monastic Traditions Compared
Both Buddhism and Christianity include traditions of monasticism, of men and women leaving home for “the religious life.” In this course, we will study and compare Buddhist and Christian monasticism from historical and religious perspectives. We will read primary sources, from the Life of St. Anthony and the Rule of St. Benedict to the verses attributed to the first Buddhist nuns and a Zen monastic code. We will examine monastic vocation, the integration of monasteries into society, and the adaptation of monasticism to different cultures. Throughout, we will highlight the role of gender. We will conclude with attention to contemporary manifestations of monastic culture. This course is equivalent to HIST 0472 and INTL 0472. 3 hr sem. CMP HIS PHL

Fall 2021

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RELI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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RELI 0700 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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RELI 0701 - Senior Thesis in Religion      

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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RELI 1023 - Early Taoist Texts      

Early Taoist Texts
In this course we will concentrate on the two great early Taoist (Daoist) texts, the Tao te ching (Daode jing) and the Chuang–tzu (Zhuangzi), both of which date from the Warring States period (475 -221 b.c.e.) of China and yet remain widely read and studied. We will read them closely, in multiple translations, and consider questions of authorship, audience, and philosophical and religious content. We will wrestle at length with these wonderful and difficult texts, with attention first to their original context and then to their reception and interpretation in later East Asian religion, philosophy, and literature. (This course is not open to students who have taken RELI 0227). AAL NOA PHL WTR

Winter 2018

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Department of Religion

Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753