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Current Center Fellows

Asad Ahmed

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Islamic Rationalism in the Age of Decline 

Ahmed specializes in early Islamic social and political history and pre-modern Muslim intellectual history, with a focus on logic, astronomy, philosophy, theology, and legal theory.  He is the author of The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic Hijaz (2011) and Avicenna's Deliverance: Logic (2011).

Project Summary:

His current project traces the intellectual history of the rationalist disciplines during Islam's so-called Age of Decline by means of a close study of a network of South Asian scholars, known as the Khayrabadis.

Eli Alshanetsky

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Philosophy, Stanford University

Articulating a Thought

Alshanetsky received a PhD in philosophy from New York University in 2014 and a BA in philosophy and cognitive science from UC Berkeley. Before coming to Stanford, he spent a year as a lecturer at NYU. His primary research and teaching interests are in the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and cognitive science. Alshanetsky’s project explores a nexus of issues concerning thought, expression, and self-knowledge. He is currently completing a book that investigates how we come to know our own thoughts in the process of putting them into words, and how we gain a better understanding of our own mental states by expressing them in a public medium.

Colleen Anderson

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of German Studies, Stanford University

Two Kinds of Infinity: East Germany, West Germany, and the Cold War Cosmos, 1945-1995

Colleen Anderson studies the history, culture, and technology of Cold War Germany. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2017 and has received funding from the American Historical Association & NASA, the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, DAAD, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, and the Central European History Society.

Project Summary:

This project studies Germans’ participation in and imaginations about outer space exploration during the Cold War. The manuscript traces the changing ways in which East and West Germans saw their own futures as connected to space travel and in which Germans used outer space to address their pasts and envision their roles in the world around them.

Ann Atura

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Getting Distance: American Feminism and the Jewish-American Novel

Rebekah Baglini

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

States in Semantic Ontology 

Rebekah Baglini received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago in 2015. Baglini's research, growing out of her dissertation “Stative Predication and Semantic Ontology,” centers on lexical semantics and cross-linguistic variation.  Of special interest is the way that languages encode 'stative concepts'—a set of universal concepts relating to abstract properties realized by entities in the world, including dimension, age, speed, value, and color. Baglini was the Bloch Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America, from March 2011 to March 2013 and previously worked as a Visiting Lecturer in Linguistics at UC San Diego. Her dissertation fieldwork on Wolof in Senegal was supported by an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant.  

 

Ian Beacock

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

The Head and the Heart: Passionate Republicanism in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933

Ian P. Beacock is a PhD candidate in Stanford’s Department of History. A historian of modern European political culture, he is broadly interested in the relationship between political thought and action in modern democratic states. His research and teaching focus on modern Germany, intellectual history, queer history, and the history of democracy. His work has been supported by the Central European History Society, the German Historical Institute, the DAAD, the Hoover Institution Library and Archives, and others. He has written about European history and the humanities for a variety of publications including The Atlantic, The New Republic, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Project Summary:

Beacock’s dissertation, “The Head and the Heart: Passionate Republicanism in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933,” investigates how German politicians, intellectuals, and activists wrestled with the place of emotions in democratic life. From revolutionary love to erotic desire, the project excavates a forgotten political sensibility characterized not by cerebral rationalism but rather heartfelt democratic engagement. The first major study of political emotions in the Weimar Republic, Beacock’s dissertation offers a fresh vantage point on the vitality of German democracy as well as its ultimate collapse. More generally, it is a preliminary effort to sketch the history of the modern European democratic subject. 

Heather Brink-Roby

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Reason’s Stories: Type, Example, Paradigm

Heather-Roby studies the novel and the history of science. She received her PhD from Harvard University in English, her MPhil from University of Cambridge in history and philosophy of science, and her AB from Harvard in History and Literature; before coming to Stanford, she was a Junior Research Fellow at University of Cambridge.

Project Summary:

Reason’s Stories: Type, Example, Paradigm explores the narratives latent in three central logical modes and considers how nineteenth-century novelists, scientists, philosophers, and social reformers used those implied structures of experience. It shows how conceptual orderings become unspoken stories that shadow and shape the spoken ones.

Giovanna Ceserani

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Classics, Stanford University

A Sicilian Journey: In Search of the Cosmopolitan Enlightenment 

Willie Costello

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Philosophy, Stanford University

From Causes to Forms: The Phaedo and the Foundations of Platonic Metaphysics

Willie Costello received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Toronto in 2015. Costello specializes in ancient Greek philosophy, with particular interests in ancient Greek metaphysics and Plato. His main body of research explores how ancient thinkers from the Presocratics to Aristotle sought to explain the structure and composition of ordinary objects. He is especially interested in clarifying how Plato fits into this tradition, and showing how Plato's conception of Forms was developed against this background. He is currently developing this work into a monograph, titled The causal origins of Plato's Forms: The natural philosophy of the Phaedo and its context.

Henry Cowles

Distinguished Junior External Fellow

Department of History, University of Michigan

The Scientific Method: Evolution and Experiment from Darwin to Dewey

Henry M. Cowles is an assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan, where he specializes in the history of science in the United States and Great Britain. His research and teaching interests include the sciences of mind and brain, evolutionary theory, and experimentation in science, medicine, and literature.   
 
In “The Scientific Method; Evolution and Experiment from Darwin to Dewey,” Cowles offers a new history of the idea that science is defined by a particular way of thinking, one deeply rooted in the human mind and (supposedly) free of philosophical and political baggage. He examines how this idea of a single, shared method emerged as psychological theories of mental adaptation were used to reimagine experimental practices over the course of the nineteenth century.

 

Lukas Dovern

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Investing in Socialist Poland: A Transnational History of Finance in the Cold War, 1944-1991

Lukas Dovern is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Stanford. He holds a BA and an MA in History from the University of Münster, Germany. Studying the region of Eastern Europe from a transnational perspective, his research interests include the Cold War, globalization, finance, and socialist economies.

Project Summary:

Drawing on the example of socialist Poland and its ties to internationally operating financial institutions, Dovern investigates the role of finance in the Cold War. In his dissertation, he shows that studying Eastern Europe solely within the framework of Soviet politics and the bipolarity of the Cold War omits a crucial part of its international history; worldwide patterns of globalization, not just the rhythm of superpower politics, are equally important to understand the region’s history 

Charlotte Fonrobert

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University

Re-Placing the Nation: Judaism, Diaspora, and the Politics of Neighborhood

David Gilbert

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Anthropology, Stanford University

Cultivating Post-industrial Life on a Sumatran Volcano

David E. Gilbert is a Ph.D. Candidate in Stanford's department of Anthropology. He specializes in the study of the political economy of environmental change, agrarian livelihoods, and social movements. He has lived and worked in Sumatra, Indonesia, on and off, since 2007. 

Project Summary:

Building on fourteen months of research in Sumatra's Bukit Barisan mountain range, Gilbert integrates ethnographic, archival and landscape ecology methods to illuminate how one group of agriculturalists was able to reclaim a ruined industrial cattle ranch and plantation to cultivate diverse, environmentally-attune livelihoods. Elaborating a particularly modern integration of livelihood, politics and ecology, this particular group of agriculturalists work to support their own well-being, as well as that of thousands of species of more than human life. 

Alanna Hickey

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow


Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University


The Forms of National Belonging: The Politics of Nineteenth-Century Native American Poetry 

Alanna Hickey works at the intersections of poetry and poetics, Native American and Indigenous studies, and settler colonial studies. She received her PhD from Northwestern University's English Department in 2016. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Huntington Library, the Newberry Library, and the Bancroft Library.

Project Summary:

Her current book project, The Forms of National Belonging, illuminates the central role of poetry in Native American expressive cultures before the Native American Renaissance of the 1960s. The project argues that instruction in reading and writing poetry became foundational to colonial and national assimilation campaigns, and traces the ultimate failure of these campaigns in their efforts to overwrite Indigenous practice and presence. Constructing a genealogy of verse composed in English, Creek dialect, Anishinaabemowin, and Cherokee, the book offers a history of poets from a diverse set of Native communities transforming popular Euro-American poetic genres to protect and propagate Native cultural expression and communal life.

Katherine Hilton

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

The Social Perception of Overlapping Speech 

Nicole T. Hughes

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Iberian and Latin American Cultures, Stanford University

Stages of History: New World Spectacles and the Theater of the World in the Sixteenth Century

Nicole T. Hughes completed her PhD at Columbia University in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Her research focuses on early modern Iberian expansion, especially in New Spain and Brazil. She has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, and the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (Berlin) and was a visiting researcher at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa’s Centre for the Humanities and the Universidade de São Paulo. Previously, she edited nonfiction at The Penguin Press.

Project Summary:

In her current book project, "Stages of History: New World Spectacles and the Theater of the World in the Sixteenth Century," she analyzes at dramatic performances in New Spain and Brazil in which missionaries, conquistadors, and indigenous populations superimposed depictions of far-flung conflicts and representations of local struggles. She argues that by envisioning other parts of the world and relating those images back to the Americas, participants in these theatrical spectacles created foundational narratives of New Spanish and Brazilian history.  

Shawon Kinew

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University

The Vision in Stone: Melchiorre Cafa in the World, 1636-1667 

Shawon Kinew received her PhD in the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University in 2016. She was a Predoctoral Fellow in the Scholars Program at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (2015-2016) and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Institutional Fellow at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte in Rome from 2013-2015.

Project Summary:

Kinew's book project is called The Vision in Stone: Melchiorre Cafa in the World, 1636-1667. Her research on the Maltese sculptor Melchiorre Cafà explores how a sculptural softness cultivated in hard stone emerged as predominant aesthetic category in the seventeenth century. Through Cafà’s sculpture of the first saint of the Americas, Rose of Lima—carved in 1665 and sent to Peru in 1670—she explores the process by which a local Roman artistic discourse was adapted for a globalizing Catholic world.

Mélanie Lamotte

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University

Before Race Mattered: Prejudice and Assimilation in French Colonialism, c. 1608-1767.

Mélanie Lamotte is a historian of race, ethnicity, slavery and colonialism.  She was awarded a BA in history and an MPhil in early modern history at the Sorbonne and at the University of Cambridge. In 2016, she received a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge, where she became a Junior Research Fellow. 

She is currently developing her PhD research into a monograph entitled, “Before Race Mattered. Prejudice and Assimilation in French Colonialism, c. 1608-1767.”

Project summary:

This monograph focuses on the transition from prejudice and assimilation to race, in the context of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French colonialism. It is the first book envisioning French Atlantic and Indian Ocean territories together, through the use of comparisons and the consideration of trans-imperial networks. 

Krista Lawlor

Donald Andrews Whittier Fellow

Department of Philosophy, Stanford University

The Reasonable Person Standard  

Philippa Levine

Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow 

Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

The Tree of Knowledge: Science, Art, and the Naked Form

Philippa Levine is Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas and Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professor in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin. Her books include Prostitution, Race and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire, The British Empire, Sunrise to Sunset, and Eugenics: A Very Short Introduction.  

Project Summary: 

Nakedness has always occupied a troubled place in the human imagination yet its turbulent and complex history remains surprisingly under-studied. This project aims to fill that lacuna and to explore why the naked human form has and remains so controversial.

Glory Liu

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Political Science, Stanford University

Inventing the Invisible Hand: Adam Smith and the Making of an American Creed

Glory is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science with research interests in the history of political thought, economic thought, and American politics. She holds a BA in political economy and classics from UC Berkeley, and MPhils in political thought and classics from Cambridge University.  She is also a semi-professional contemporary ballet dancer.

Project Summary: 

Liu's dissertation traces the reception of Adam Smith's ideas in American thought, culture and politics from the eighteenth century to the present.  In showing how certain of Smith's ideas became politically salient over time, Liu's project sheds light on the changing nature of intellectual authority and the role that economic ideas play in American politics. 

Kristin Mann

Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow

Department of History, Emory University

Transatlantic Lives: Slavery and Freedom in West Africa and Brazil

Kristin Mann is an historian of Africa with special interests in slavery, the slave trade, abolition, and emancipation; law and colonialism; marriage, gender, and domesticity; the making of the African diaspora; and black Atlantic history and culture. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University.

Project Summary:

This book pioneers a new approach to the recovery of transatlantic slave biographies, on the cutting edge of studies of slavery, the slave trade, and the African diaspora. The biographies yield powerful new insights into how the many thousands of Yoruba-speaking slaves imported into Brazil in the first half of the nineteenth century forged relationships of different kinds among themselves and with others that helped them endure slavery, find paths to manumission, and create a diaspora that still powerfully connects West Africa, Brazil, and other parts of the Atlantic world.

Elizabeth Marcus

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of French and Italian, Stanford University

Difference and Dissidence in Lebanon: French, Arabic and Cultural Conflict, 1943-1975

Elizabeth Jacqueline Marcus completed her Ph.D. in French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in 2017, and received her BA in Modern History and French at the University of Oxford. Elizabeth's research focuses on the literatures and​ ​cultural​ ​history of the Francophone​ ​and Arab​ ​world, with a particular interest in multilingualism, intellectual networks and migration in the postcolonial context. She has been a Visiting Scholar at MIT, and at Sciences-Po (Paris). In addition to her formal training, she has studied and conducted research in France, the UK, Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

 

Alison McQueen

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Political Science, Stanford University

Absolving God: Hobbes’s Scriptural Politics

Alison McQueen is an Assistant Professor of Political Science.  Her research focuses on early modern political theory and the history of International Relations thought. She is the author of Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), which traces the responses of Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Hans Morgenthau to hopes and fears about the end of the world.  Her other ongoing research projects explore Thomas Hobbes’s scriptural arguments, normative and methodological questions within political realism, methods of textual interpretation, and the ethics and politics of catastrophe.

Project summary: 

This book racks and explains changes in Thomas Hobbes’s strategies of Scriptural argument over time.  This book will seek to account for three such changes—Hobbes’ increasing focus on Scriptural and religious questions, his turn toward the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and his adoption of an increasingly multi-pronged argumentative strategy on religious questions.

Richard Meyer

Ellen Andrews Wright Fellow 

Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University

The Master of the Two Left Feet: Morris Hirshfield and 'Modern Primitive' Art

Richard Meyer is Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History at Stanford. Recent books include What was Contemporary Art? and, with Catherine Lord, Art and Queer Culture.  His first book, Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art received the Charles C. Eldredge Prize from the Smithsonian. 

Project Summary:

A Brooklyn tailor and slipper manufacturer who took up art at the age of 65, Morris Hirshfield created wildly stylized paintings of animals, landscapes, and often-nude female figures.  My project, the first book-length study of the painter, presents Hirshfield as a key figure within the emergent construction of the “modern primitive” artist in the 1940s.

Benjamin Morgan

External Faculty Fellow

Department of English Language and Literature, University of Chicago

In Human Scale: Form and Aesthetics in the Era of Climate Change 

Aileen Robinson

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Theater and Performance Studies

Technological Wonder: The Theatrical Fashioning of Scientific Practice, 1780-1905 

Aileen Robinson received an Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University in 2016.  Her current project explores the contribution of theatre and magic performance to emerging practices of science communication in the nineteenth century. She investigates how theatrical performances and magic shows drew upon technological innovations and formed unique methods for disseminating scientific knowledge. She conducted archival research in Britain and the United States supported through an SSRC International Dissertation Fellowship and an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Read a Q&A about Robinson's work. 

Londa Schiebinger

Violet Andrews Whittier Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment

Londa Schiebinger is the John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford University and elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She currently directs the Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment project, and has addressed the United Nations on “Gender, Science, and Technology.”

Project Summary:

Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment harness the creative power of sex and gender analysis for innovation and discovery. Considering gender may add a valuable dimension to research; it may take research in new directions. 

Luca Scholz

Postdoctoral Mellon Fellow

Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, Stanford University 

The Enclosure of Movement: Safe-conduct and the Troubles of Transit in the Holy Roman Empire 

Luca Scholz is an historian of early modern Europe. He pursued his doctoral studies in History at the European University Institute (Florence). His research is concerned with the governance of inter-polity mobility. Before coming to Stanford, he taught for one term at the Free University of Berlin. Luca studied History and Economics in Heidelberg and Paris and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Saint Andrews and at Columbia University.

Project Summary:

Intent on transcending conventional representations of early modern states as bounded territories, Scholz’s current project devises new ways of representing premodern territoriality, using digital tools to create maps that visualize political orders as regimes of movement. Applying spatial analysis to the history of free movement and its restriction, the project provides a historical perspective one of the most controversial issues of our day.

Kyla Schuller

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Gender Studies After Gender: Toward Interactionist Feminism 

Kyla Schuller is Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University—New Brunswick. The author of The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century (Duke, 2017), Schuller’s work at the intersections of American Studies and Feminist Science Studies has been supported by the ACLS.

Project Summary:

While emergent models of the human body in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities emphasize its capacity of dynamic exchange with its environment, gender studies’ core concepts continue to understand physiology, or sex, as distinct from cultural processes, named as gender role. "Gender Studies After Gender" draws on emergent research into the dynamism of bodily matter from a range of scientific and humanistic fields to offer a new theory in which gender accumulates as the products of the interaction of matter and culture.

Miranda Spieler

External Faculty Fellow

Department of History, The American University of Paris

Slaves in Paris: Scenes from an Imperial Capital

Miranda Spieler is an historian of France and the overseas French empire.  She writes about the legal culture of slave and post-emancipation societies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

Project Summary:

This project looks to the lives of unfree people from Africa and French colonies to understand the evolving relationship between Paris and the overseas empire at the height of the French slave trade.  While tracing robust ties between Paris, French Atlantic ports, and the monarchy’s East and West Indian colonies, "Slaves in Paris" further explores new concepts of whiteness that arose at the end of the Old Regime. 

Justin Tackett

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Listening Between the Lines: Sound Technology and Poetry, 1816-1914

Justin Tackett is a PhD candidate in English specializing in British and American literature of the long nineteenth century (c. 1790-1940) with a focus on Victorianism; transatlantic modernism; poetry; periodical and book history; sound studies; and affect and technology. His work has included studies of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, John Clare, Stephen Crane, and Charles Williams.

Project Summary:

Tackett t asks how poetry and sound technology affected each other in nineteenth-century Britain and America by investigating stethoscopy, telegraphy, telephony, phonography, microphony, and radiophony. He seeks to develop concepts common to poetry and these technologies, such as attention and voice; immediacy and compression; and reproduction and fidelity.

Kate van Orden

Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow

Department of Music, Harvard University

Songs in Unexpected Places

Kate van Orden is Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of Music at Harvard University. Her books include Music, Discipline, and Arms in Early Modern France (2005); Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print (2014); and Materialities: Books, Readers, and the Chanson in Sixteenth-Century Europe (2015). She is also a baroque and classical bassoonist with over 60 recordings on Sony, Virgin Classics, Teldec, Harmonia Mundi, and other labels.

Project Summary: 

"Songs in Unexpected Places" tackles the question of cultural mobility by tracking a vernacular genre—the French chanson—beyond its “native” land. Although these “misplaced” and “strange” songs are fewer in number than the homegrown songs that never traveled, they hold a remarkable power: to expose the extreme displacements of music and musicians, the cross-cultural traffic sustained by singing, and the sounds of metrolingualism in early modern Europe. Ultimately, they can help us undo expectations about where things and people belong in our histories, what it meant to be “native” or “foreign,” and the wholeness of nations and tongues.

 

Sixiang Wang

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Stanford University

Co-constructing Empire in Early Choson Korea : Knowledge Production and the Culture of Diplomacy, 1392–1592 

Sixiang Wang is a historian of pre-nineteenth century Korea and early modern East Asia. His research interests also include comparative perspectives on early modern empire, the history of science and knowledge, and issues of language and writing in Korea's cultural and political history. He received his PhD from the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures of Columbia University in October 2015.

Project Summary:

This project examines how ritualistic and literary activities such as court ceremonial, gift-giving, envoy poetry and history writing shaped Korean-Chinese diplomatic exchange during the Chosŏn (1392–1910) and Ming (1368–1644) periods. By reconstructing the cultural strategies the Korean court deployed in dealing with the Ming empire, it also provides a genealogy of political concepts in East Asian diplomacy, especially those related to sovereignty or political authority, as they emerged from the interactions between Korean diplomats and their imperial Chinese counterparts.

Colin Webster

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Classics, University of California, Davis

Technology and/as Theory: Material Thinking in Ancient Science and Medicine

Colin Webster is an assistant professor of Classics at UC Davis. His research focuses on science and medicine in Greco-Roman antiquity. Recent publications include articles on optics and vision, the soundscape of ancient healing practices and the “heuristic” techniques of ancient Methodist physicians.

Project Summary:
His book project places ancient scientific theories within their technological contexts, Illustrating how changing material realities shaped scientific assumptions in Greco-Roman antiquity. He explores how even simple devices like pipes, glass and wax tablets can create patterns of thinking, investigating them alongside the development of more sophisticated cognitive tools, like diagrams, experimental devices and astronomical mechanisms.

Renren Yang

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

Charismatic Presences: Authorship in Literary Migration from Print to Digital China

Renren Yang is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at Stanford University, with a concentration on twentieth-and twentieth-first century Chinese literature and culture. He has been interested in hero and heroism in world literature, theories of authorship, media genres, and literary creativity in the age of digital culture. He has a BA and MA in English from Peking University.

Project Summary: 

In his dissertation “Charismatic Presences: Authorship in Literary Migration from Print to Digital China,” Renren Yang studies the effects the shift from print to digital media has upon the conception and practice of literary authorship in contemporary China. Although the democracy of online writing tends to dismantle individual authority, he contends that the digital mediasphere actually empowers new routes to celebrity authorship, harkening back to the literary stardom afforded by print press in 1940s Shanghai and the model-writers erected via transmedia storytelling in the Maoist China. With this media genealogy of charismatic authorship in the core, his project also attends to the ways in which the advent of digital technologies has shaped the legal notion, uncanny resurrection, and posthumanist imagination of authorship in the context of post-socialist China.