Nan Z. Da

Da Profile4

Assistant Professor of English

Specialty: Comparative Literature, Critical Theory, Chinese and American Literature, Transnationalism, Theories of the Book and Reading

Degrees: BA, University of Chicago; PhD, University of Michigan

My research draws on a variety of sources from American literature to Chinese textual traditions to critical theory. I ask what literary criticism can show us about global and social interactions besides the fact of their happening and their representation; mostly I wonder what happens when we take our prompts for relationality from the versions inside literature, which regulates the efficiency of cross-cultural transmissions and polices boundaries both personal and international in ways that are very different from real life.

My first book, Intransitive Encounter (forthcoming from Columbia University Press) considers a cross-culturalism and a transnationalism that is wholly self-contained, that uses itself up in the moment of transpiration, and that does not demand institutionalization, demonstrable impact, or empirical evidence that it has taken place. It offers a sustained study of nineteenth-century Sino-US literary encounters, finding in them “forms before exchange” that are neither expressions of isolationism/subversiveness nor evidence of transpacific interpollination. The book uses these intransitive forms to think about alternative models for encounter and to reconceptualize reception that leaves no trace.

My next book, tentatively titled Untracking Devices, develops through world literary theory and literary criticism an alternative, antipositivist sociology of literature for a modern world governed by communicative distanciation and non-verifiability. Rather than study literary forms as discrete units that can be patterned, tracked, and mined, it studies literary devices—quantitatively efficient contrivings, that are also, in an obsolescent sense, unascertainable private desires or choices(as in: “leaving someone to their own devices.”).The book will offer readings from a wide range of primary literature including King Lear, The Golden Bowl, Yeats’ poems, the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, and selections from Chinese poetics and philosophy such as Li Sao (Encountering Sorrow), Chu Ci (Songs of Chu), and Zhai Yongmin’s The Subtlest Verses.

Personal Website:

Contact Information:
228 Decio Faculty Hall
(574) 631-7536

Mailing Address:
Department of English
356 O’Shaughnessy Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556