University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences




Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures
122 Wilson Hall
PO Box 400901
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4901

As the Institute’s new director beginning in August 2023, Jack W. Chen, Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures & Cultures, continues to advance the IHGC’s role and relevance as a laboratory for innovative and public-facing humanistic scholarship; an intellectual commons for cross-disciplinary collaboration; and, a stage for the celebration of art, music, performance, and literature. Chen has been an integral part of the IHGC community of scholars since he was hired by the College with a co-appointment as IHGC Mellon Fellow in Fall 2016. In that same term, Chen, along with then-IHGC Director Debjani Ganguly, and Scholars’ Lab Director Alison Booth, secured a grant from UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund for $466,000 for the three-year IHGC Humanities Informatics Lab (2017–2020). The Lab supported four different working groups (Human/Machine Intelligence, Network-Corpus, Smart Environments, Surveillance and Infrastructure), as well as lectures and workshops, individual projects and publications, new curricular development, the Digital Humanities Graduate Certificate, and the IHGC/UVA-hosted 2018 meeting of the global body of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (not coincidentally on the theme of “Humanities Informatics”). Additionally, he worked with IHGC’s Asian Cosmopolitanisms Lab on two initiatives in Spring 2021. The first being an online funded interdisciplinary graduate student workshop titled “Comparative / World / Global” that explored recent methodological work with invited national speakers, and the second being an online lecture series, “Rethinking World Literature: China as Method,” featuring talks by noted national scholars exploring different approaches to non-Anglocentric models of world literature. These two projects were inspired by IHGC’s pioneering work on the Global South but also by the need for spaces to do the kind of methodological work that only exist outside of national literature departments.

Chen’s research interests draw both on his training in comparative literature and in classical Chinese literary history. He has published extensively on various aspects of early and medieval Chinese literature, reframing philological and textual concerns through different theoretical and methodological approaches, from critical theory to computational analysis. His recent works have taken up the history of information management in traditional China, gossip and social networks, and (neo)cybernetic approaches to poetry. His current projects are co-editing a six-volume cultural history of Chinese literature and finishing a monograph on ghosts and poetry. His next project will be a study of cats and the literary ordinary. Chen has taught previously at UCLA and Wellesley College, and he received his BA in Literature from Yale, his MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan, and his PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard.



2024/25   A Cultural History of Chinese Literatures. Co-edited with Carlos Rojas. 6 vols. London: Bloomsbury. In progress.

2024/25   A Cultural History of Chinese Literatures, vol. 2, The Medieval Period (200–900 CE). London: Bloomsbury. In progress.

2023        Literary History in and beyond China: Reading Text and World. Coedited with Sarah M. Allen and Xiaofei Tian. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.

2021        Literary Information in China: A History. Co-edited with Anatoly Detwyler, Xiao Liu, Christopher M. B. Nugent, and Bruce Rusk. New York: Columbia University Press.

2021        Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance: Essays on the Shishuo xinyu. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.

2013        Idle Talk: Gossip and Anecdote in Traditional China. Co-edited with David Schaberg. Berkeley: Global, Area, and International Archive and the University of California Press. Open Access.

2010        The Poetics of Sovereignty: On Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.


Selected Recent Articles, Chapters, and Translations

2023        “On Poems: System and Environment.” Part of “Literary Cybernetics: A Forum,” edited by Heather A. Love and Lea Pao. New Literary History 54, no. 2 (1207–13).

2023        “Ghost Poetry as a Problem for Literary History,” in Literary History in and beyond China: Reading Text and World, ed. Allen, Chen, and Tian. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2023): 51–70.

2022        “Poetry, Ghosts, Mediation,” Qui Parle 31, no. 1 (June 2022): 7–26.

2021        “Lines, Couplets, Stanzas,” in Literary Information in China: A History, ed. Chen, et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2021), 119–24.

2021        “Introduction: For a History of Literary Information in China.” Coauthored with Anatoly Detwyler, Xiao Liu, Christopher M. B. Nugent, and Bruce Rusk. In Literary Information in China: A History, ed. Chen, et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2021), xxi–xxxii.

2020        “Fictionality in Early and Medieval China.” Co-authored with Sarah M. Allen. New Literary History 51.1 (2020): 231–34.

2020        “Foundings of Home: On Du Fu and Poetic Success,” in Xiaofei Tian, ed., Reading Du Fu: Nine Views (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2020), 15–26.

2020        “Chapter 1: The Way of the Sovereign”; “Chapter 2: The Organization of Governance”; “Chapter 25: On Profligacy and Reckless”; and “Chapter 26: On Greed and Baseness,” in Wu Jing, The Essentials of Governance, ed. Hilde De Weerdt, Glen Dudbridge, and Gabe Van Beijeren (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), pp. 7–16, 17–32, 208–15, 216–21. Translation of Wu Jing 吳 競 (ca. 669–749), Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要.

2019        “Reading the Quan Tang shi: Literary History, Topic Modeling, Divergence Measures.” Co-authored with Peter Broadwell and David Shepard. Digital Humanities Quarterly 13.4 (2019).

2018        “Du Fu: The Poet as Historian,” in Cai Zong-qi, ed., How to Read Chinese Poetry in Context: Chinese Poetic Culture from Antiquity through the Tang (Columbia University Press, 2018), pp. 236–47.

2018        “On Mourning and Sincerity in the Li ji and the Shishuo xinyu,” in Wendy Swartz and Robert F. Campany, eds., Memory in Medieval China: Text, Ritual, and Community (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 63–81.


Recent Talks

2023        “The Ghost as After.” Keynote Lecture for Centre for Humanities Research Winter School: “The After.” University of the Western Cape, South Africa, August 9, 2023.

2023        “Reading as Conversation.” Reading: A Conversation. Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures, University of Virginia, May 27, 2023.

2023        “Modern, Medieval.” Keynote Lecture for “Historicism beyond Periodization: Transhistorical Methods in Chinese Literary Studies.” University of Chicago, April 21, 2023.

2023        “Ghosts and Cybernetics.” “A Cross-Cultural Conversation on Wonder Collections,” organized by Karl Steel. Medieval Academy of America 98th Annual Meeting. February 24, 2023.

2022        “文學史、主題模型、散度度量:以閱讀《全唐詩》為例。”[Literary History, Topic Modeling, Divergence Measures: Reading the Quan Tang shi as an Example]. 第三届清华数字人文学国际论坛:古典诗歌与声律专场 [Third International Conference on Digital Humanities at Tsinghua University]. Tsinghua University, November 13, 2022.

2022        “Toward a Poetic History of Cats in China: On Care and the Ordinary.” Seminar: “Beyond Anthropocentrism: Animals and Literature,” organized by Ursula K. Heise. Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association. National Taiwan Normal University, June 16, 2022.

2022        “Ghost Poetry and Literary History.” University of Tennessee Humanities Center Distinguished Lecture Series. University of Tennessee, April 11, 2022.

2022        “A Funny Ghost Story, a Not-So-Funny Ghost Story, and a Ghost Story That Won’t Be Funny to You.” “Humor in Middle Period Chinese Literature.” Association of Asian Studies Annual Meeting. Honolulu, March 27, 2022.

2022        “Knowing and Unknowing Ghosts.” “On the Human / Nonhuman / Posthuman in Medieval China II.” 97th Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America. University of Virginia, March 13, 2022.

2022        “A Fourth-Century Buddhist Monk as Reader.” “Phenomenologies of Reading.” Modern Language Association Annual Convention. Washington D.C., January 6, 2022.

2021        “Ghosts, Lyric, Mediation.” Panel: Lyric Geographies. 3rd International Network for the Study of Lyric Worldwide Conference: Open Windows on Lyric. Leuven, June 18, 2021 (virtual).

2019        “Poetry as Mind and Matter.” Materiality of Knowledge in Chinese Thought: Past and Present. University of Oxford/Yuelu Academy. Changsha, September 4, 2019.

2019        “Information Systems as/in Chinese Literary History.” Rare Book School Summer Lecture Series. University of Virginia, June 3, 2019.

2019        “Looking Back Across the River: Nostalgia as Migrancy in the Shishuo xinyu.” Border-Crossing and Migration in Early Medieval China. Harvard University, May 23, 2019.