Nan Z. Da

Assistant Professor of English

Specialty: Critical Theory, Nineteenth-century American literature and literary history, Chinese literature and literary history, Theories of the Book and Reading

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

I research and teach in American and Chinese literature as well as Chinese and Western literary and social theory. Courses I have taught include Introduction to Literary Theory, American Literature before 1865, World Literature, and History of Discourses of China. I am specifically interested in the kinds of social, global, and human phenomena that can only be captured through literary interpretation and I explore these through pedagogy, scholarly projects, and non-specialized prose.

My work has appeared in American Literary HistoryAvidlyComparative LiteratureCritical InquiryThe Henry James ReviewJ19 (x2), The Los Angeles Review of Books, Modernism/modernityPublic BooksSigns (x2), Times Literary SupplementThe Threepenny Reviewand The Yale ReviewI also edit, with Professor Anahid Nersessian, Thinking Literature—a series dedicated to literary criticism sponsored by the University of Chicago Press.

My first book, Intransitive Encounter (Columbia University Press, December 2018) names a cross-culturalism that is self-contained, that uses itself up in the moment and that, out of no ill will or bad faith, has no mappable afterlife or program of exchange attached. It theorizes this form of intransitivity in nineteenth-century Sino-US literary exchanges and proposes a different path for Sino-US relations—not a geopolitical showdown nor easy celebrations of hybridity but the possibility of self-contained cross-cultural encounters that do not have to confess to the fact of their having taken place.

I am currently at work on a scholarly sequel to Intransitive Encounter called "Tracking Devices." Inspired by the late Stanley Cavell's odd formulation of Cordelia's death in King Lear as a "tracking device," I examine the kinds of things literature is actually good at logging and the kinds of things literary criticism is actually good at tracking. This intuition—that literary objects track injustices no court of law but that of literary criticism would hear, and that any additional tracking would just be redundant if not actually harmful—is tested across several interlinked sites: Chinese diasporic literature, antipositivist social theory, and literature in the western canon.

I am also writing a piece of autobiographical experimental criticism tentatively titled That No Harm Will Come to Harmless Things that reflects on immigrant girlhood and the psychic fallout of the Cultural Revolution.

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

Mailing Address:
Department of English
233 Decio Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556