Religious Studies

Brian Hoffert

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History, Coordinator of History of Ideas, Coordinator of East Asian Studies


+1 630 637 5619

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My interest in Chinese Philosophy was first kindled in my undergraduate years at the University of Toronto, where I received my Bachelor’s degree as a specialist in East Asian Studies with a major in Philosophy. I then spent a year studying Chinese language and philosophy at the Mandarin Training Center in Taipei before entering the Master’s degree program in Comparative Philosophy at the University of Hawaii. In 1993 I entered the Ph.D. program in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, where I worked closely with Professors Tu Wei-ming, Michael Puett, Helen Hardacre and Peter Bol, as well as with two of the most respected scholars of Daoism, Livia Kohn (Boston University) and Harold Roth (Brown University). Under their guidance, I broadened my understanding of the historical context in which East Asian thought developed and deepened my perspective on the evolution of Daoism, my primary area of research. I received my doctorate degree from Harvard in March of 2002.

My doctoral dissertation, “Chuang Tzu: The Evolution of a Taoist Classic,” presented an interdisciplinary perspective on the composition of the Zhuangzi, one of the most important texts in the East Asian intellectual tradition. More generally, my research is concerned with various aspects of East Asian thought, especially early Chinese philosophy, Neo-Confucianism, and Japanese religion. In this regard, I have done extensive research on a number of important topics, such as the harmonious relationship between different traditions of philosophy and religion in both China and Japan, Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming as the catalyst of the Four-Seven Debate, and religious pilgrimage in contemporary Japan. 

I’m extremely passionate about teaching and hope to inspire in my students a lifelong interest in all things East Asian—past, present and future.

Courses Taught

HST 165: Introduction to East Asia

HST 261/265: Traditional China/Modern China

HST 330: East Asian Thought

REL 100: Introduction to World Religions

REL 255/260/265: Religions of India/China/Japan

REL 315: Buddhism

HOI 100: Authority and Freedom