• Associate Professor, World Languages and Cultures

Research Statement

My research centers on literature and popular culture in Qing and Republican China.  In the process of exploring some of the most widely read narratives of this age, such as martial arts fiction and court case drum ballads, I find myself drawn to interdisciplinary approaches including history of the book and studies of legal culture.  My first book, “Green Peony” and the Rise of the Chinese Martial Arts Novel (State University of New York Press, 2009), focuses on issues of literary genre and the relationship between popular and elite culture.  I was inspired to study the martial arts novel by my interest in the relationship between performance traditions and the novel in China, an interest which also led to my co-editing The Oral and the Written in Chinese Popular Literature with Vibeke Børdahl (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, 2010).   I also co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Yangzhou - A Place in Chinese Literature: The Local in Chinese Cultural History (University of Hawaii Press, forthcoming).  The volume grew out of an interest in local culture, as does my current book project.  I am writing a book about drum ballads as popular literature and regional culture. Drum ballad texts (guci) evoke one of the most popular of performance genres in north China in the Qing dynasty and early Republic (ca. 1800-1938). Circulating in manuscript, woodblock print, and eventually lithographic, editions, these texts not only drew on oral literature but also served as vehicles for the dissemination of popular stories throughout north China. Study of this body of narratives opens up surprising new perspectives on vital topics in Chinese literature and history: the creation of regional cultural identities and their relation to a central “Chinese culture”; the relationship between oral and written cultures; and the impact of the changing technology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century on the reproduction and dissemination of popular texts.  This project was awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship for 2010-2011.


  • “Court Case Ballads: Popular Ideals of Justice in Late Qing and Republican China.” Presented at the International Workshop on Chinese Legal History/Culture/Modernity, Columbia University. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 05/05/2012.
  • “Yangzhou – a place in literature: issues from a tentative framework,” opening address for the International Workshop on Yangzhou - A Place in Literature, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 09/01/2011.
  • “Drum Ballads as Local Literature: Audiences and Reading Practices,” invited lecture presented at the Institute for Chinese Studies’ “The Future of the Past” series, The Ohio State University. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/10/2008.
  • “Popular Literature and Local Culture in the Qing,” invited lecture presented at the Norwegian Academy of Science, Oslo, Norway. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 11/05/2007.
  • “Green Peony as New Popular Fiction,” invited lecture at China’s Long 20th Century Workshop, University of Chicago. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 05/25/2001.

Geographical Regions of Interest

  • China


  • “Chinese Popular Novel,” in Ken Seigneurie and Christopher Lupke, eds., Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature. 5 vols. (New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming). Accepted, 06/2015.
  • Yangzhou - A Place in Literature: The Local in Chinese Cultural History. Co-edited with Roland Altenburger and Vibeke Børdahl. University of Hawaii Press. Published, 01/2015.
  • "Court Case Ballads: Popular Ideals of Justice in Late Qing and Republican China." In Li Chen and Madeleine Zelin, eds, Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice and Transformation, 1530s to 1950s (Brill, 2015), 287-320. Published, 01/2015.
  • “Changben dui xiaoshuo de yingxiang 唱本对小说的影响.” [The influence of chantefables on the novel.] In Guoji Hanxue 国际汉学 (International Sinology, published by Beijing Foreign Studies University) volume 22 (January 2012): 137-150. Published, 01/2012.
  • Review of Wilt Idema, Judge Bao and the Rule of Law. In Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 33 (December 2011): 205-206. Published, 12/2011.
  • “The Drum Ballad Cases of Judge Liu: A Window on the Form in the Early Nineteenth Century.” In I.S. Smirnov, ed., China and Around: Mythology, Folklore, Literature (Moscow: Russian State University for the Humanities, 2010), 237-250. Published, 11/2010.
  • “Audiences and reading practices for Qing dynasty drum ballad texts.” In Vibeke Børdahl and Margaret Wan, eds., The Interplay of the Oral and the Written in Chinese Popular Literature (Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, 2010), 41-60. Published, 09/2010.
  • The Interplay of Oral and Written in Chinese Popular Literature, co-edited with Vibeke Børdahl. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press. Published, 2010.
  • Green Peony and the Rise of the Chinese Martial Arts Novel. Albany: State University of New York. Published, 2009.
  • Review of Chloe Starr, _Red-light Novels of the late Qing._ Journal of Asian Studies 68.3 (August 2009), pp. 960-961. Published, 2009.
  • "Local Fiction of the Yangzhou Region: _Qingfengzha_." In Lucie Olivova and Vibeke Bordahl, eds., _Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou_ (Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, May 2009), 177-204. Published, 2009.
  • “The Chantefable and the Novel: The Cases of Lü Mudan and Tianbao tu,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Published, 2004.