History of Art and Architecture

Elizabeth Morrissey



Elizabeth Morrissey studies the intersection of art and Buddhist ritual in pre-modern Japanese illustrated handscrolls. Her dissertation examines how Buddhist rituals are depicted in the 14th century illustrated handscroll Ishiyama-dera engi e (The Illustrated Legends of Ishiyama-dera), a scroll that recounts the history and miraculous events of the Shingon-sect temple Ishiyama-dera, as part of the memorialization of the golden age of court culture to which its patrons aspired. Her research places Ishiyama-dera engi e within the context of its creation, just before and during the tumultuous Nanbokuchō period, and interprets the ritual scenes—previously considered only as historically accurate representations of Buddhist ritual—as carefully curated reconstructions of an idealized, ordered past.

Her MA thesis focused on depictions of secret Buddhist rituals in Ishiyama-dera engi e and their relationship with imperial patronage of Ishiyama-dera.  She also works on issues of female patronage of Buddhist institutions in pre-modern Japan.

Education Details

PhD, University of Pittsburgh, in Progress

MA (2012) University of Pittsburgh, History of Art and Architecture (“Displaying the Hidden: Illustrating Secret Rituals in the Ishiyama-dera Illustrated Handscroll”)

BA (2010) College of the Holy Cross, Art History Major with a concentration in Asian Studies, cum laude

Selected Publications

(Forthcoming) “Higashisanjō-in as Retired Empress and Buddhist Patron in the Illustrated Legends   of Ishiyama-dera,” in Women, Rites, and Objects in Pre-modern Japan, ed., Karen M. Gerhart (Leiden/Boston: Brill)

Selected Awards

Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship, 2016-2017         

Japan Iron and Steel Federation/Mitsubishi Graduate Fellowship in Japanese Studies , 2015-2016            

Japanese-Language Program for Specialists in Cultural and Academic Fields, The Japan Foundation, June-July, 2013

Selected Conferences

“Retired Empress and Buddhist Patron: The Illustrated Legends of Ishiyama-dera and the Donation of Higashisanjō-in.” 44th Annual Conference Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies, University of Pittsburgh, Oct. 9-11, 2015                        

“Architecture and Ritual: The Nehan-e of Ishiyama-dera.” 22nd Annual Columbia Graduate Student Conference on East Asia, Columbia University, Feb. 15-16, 2013

“Constructing the Divine: Depictions of Hidden Buddhist Icons in Medieval Japanese Temple Legend Scrolls.” South East Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, University of North Carolina, Jan. 18-20, 2013