Nan Z. Da

Assistant Professor of English, Concurrently affiliated with the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Specialty: Comparative Literary- and Critical Theory; Nineteenth-century American literature and literary history; Chinese literature and literary history; China-West relations; History and Praxis of Literary Criticism

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

My research and pedagogy focus on American and Chinese literature as well as foundational concepts from Chinese and Western literary- and social theory. I proceed from the conviction that the obvious but difficult observations about the world require assistance from the processes and structures of literary analysis and interpretation. The phenomena that most interest me are moral and social-psychological, having to do with the difficulties of truth-telling and establishing causality, of describing the lived experiences of cross-culturalism and the unexpected consequences of reading literature. I also establish in my literary histories and criticism a non-trivial connection between these phenomena and the history and future of China-West relations.

Courses I have taught include Introduction to Literary Theory, Social Theory for Literature, American Literature before 1865, American Transcendentalism, History of Discourses of China. Graduate students working with me have pursued projects in American poetry and poetics, auto-theory, 21st century social critique, and contemporary Chinese literature and politics. 

My first book, Intransitive Encounter 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, offering revisionist readings of canonical writings from this period, and proposes a different path forward 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 writing a scholarly sequel to Intransitive Encounter tentatively titled "The Tragedy of Disambiguation." Grounded in explanatory close readings of literature and theory, this project tells a China-West story about the function of literary criticism in a contradictory moment, one that hones the detection of micro-injustices while repudiating total surveillance. "The Tragedy of Disambiguation" finds fresh contexts for this problem in the history of literary criticism and theory, twentieth- and twenty-first-century China, and Chinese diasporic literature. Finally, I am also writing a piece of autobiographical experimental criticism called That No Harm Will Come to Harmless Things that reflects on immigrant girlhood and the psychic fallout of the Cultural Revolution.

I edit, with Professor Anahid Nersessian (UCLA), Thinking Literature—a series dedicated to literary criticism sponsored by the University of Chicago Press.

Reviews for Intransitive Encounter:

Selected Scholarly Publications

On Literary Studies and Data Science

Scholarly Reviews, Book Reviews, and Other Essays

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

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