Laurie L. Patton

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Laurie L. Patton
17th President of Middlebury College
Assumed office
July 1, 2015
Preceded by Ronald D. Liebowitz
Personal details
Born November 14, 1961
Spouse(s) Shalom Goldman
Alma mater Harvard University
University of Chicago
Profession Professor and College Administrator

Laurie L. Patton (born November 14, 1961) is an American academic, author and poet who serves as the 17th President of Middlebury College. Previously, she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Early Indian Religions at Emory University before assuming the role of Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion and Dean of Arts and Sciences at Duke University. On November 18, 2014, Patton was named as the 17th President of Middlebury College. When she entered her role as president on July 1, 2015, she had become the first woman president in Middlebury's 214 year history.[1][2] In 2006, she was the recipient of the Emory Williams Award for excellence in teaching.

Patton graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard, a doctorate from the University of Chicago, and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2000. She focuses her research on early Indian rituals, narrative and mythology, literary theory in religious studies, and Hinduism in modern India. She has published on the interpretation of early Indian ritual and narrative, comparative mythology, literary theory in the study of religion, women and Hinduism in contemporary India, and religion and conflict.

Her early Indological work applies literary theory and theory of canon to the texts of early India, particularly Vedic texts. Later, she used a theory of metonymy to rethink the application of mantras in early Indian ritual. Her first edited work, Authority, Anxiety, and Canon (1994) surveyed the larger field of Vedic interpretation as it existed in various intellectual contexts throughout India.[3]

She was co-editor on Myth and Method an assessment of the state of the field in comparative mythology. Her co-edited work with Edwin Bryant (2005) brings together for the first time a variety of differing perspectives on the problem of Aryan origins.

Patton has also worked on gender questions, beginning with her edited volume, Jewels of Authority (2002), which examined early feminist stereotypes about women in Indian textual traditions as well as contemporary life. Her recent articles on gender are derived from her present project, the first ethnography of women Sanskritists ever to be undertaken in India.[citation needed]

Her translation of the Bhagavad Gita in the Penguin Classics Series follows a free verse style constrained by eight line stanzas.[4]

Patton regularly teaches in public venues nationally and internationally on interfaith issues, comparative religion, and religion and conflict. In 2008-09 she co-hosted a TV series on "Faith and Feminism" for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting. Patton served as Chair of the Department from 2000–2007, as Co-convenor of the Religions and the Human Spirit Strategic Plan from 2005–2007, and as Winship Distinguished Research Professor from 2003-06. She was the recipient of Emory’s highest award for teaching, the Emory Williams Award, in 2006. She co-convenes the Religion and Conflict Initiative at Emory University.[5]


Indian religion and ritual[edit]

  • Authority, Anxiety, and Canon: Essays in Vedic Interpretation (ed.,1994)
  • Myth as Argument: The Brhaddevata as Canonical Commentary (author, 1996)
  • Myth and Method (ed., with Wendy Doniger,1996)
  • Jewels of Authority: Women and Text in the Hindu Tradition (ed., 2002)
  • Bringing the Gods to Mind: Mantra and Ritual in Early Indian Sacrifice (author, 2004)
  • The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History (ed., with Edwin Bryant, 2005)
  • Notes from a Mandala: Essays in the Indian History of Religions in Honor of Wendy Doniger (ed., with David Haberman, forthcoming)
  • Grandmother Language: Women and Sanskrit in Maharashtra and Beyond (forthcoming)
  • Scholar and the Fool: The Secular Scholar of Religion and 21st Century Publics (forthcoming)

Her work of poetry includes her first book, Fire's Goal, Poems from a Hindu Year, which was chosen for the best Diwali pick by Publisher's Weekly in 2003. She has also published widely from her second poetry project, "Angel's Task," in journals such as Nimrod International Journal, CALYX, and the new Women's Torah Commentary.


  • Fire’s Goal: Poems from a Hindu Year (2003)


Preceded by
Ronald D. Liebowitz
President of Middlebury College
Succeeded by