Jing Tsu appointed Spence Professor

Tsu is a cultural historian and literary scholar of modern China.
Jing Tsu
Jing Tsu

Jing Tsu, a cultural historian and literary scholar of modern China, was recently appointed the Jonathan D. Spence Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Literatures, effective immediately.

She is a member of Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), in the departments of Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Literatures. She also has an appointment at the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs.

Tsu’s research spans literature, intellectual history, linguistics, history of science and technology diaspora studies, migration, and nationalism.

Her most recent book, “Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern” (Random House, 2022), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a New York Times notable book of 2022, and was nominated for the Cundhill History Prize, British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, and the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. The book, which details the century-long fight to make the formidable Chinese language accessible to the modern world of global trade and digital technology, exemplifies Tsu’s capacity to illuminate histories of science and culture, and was hailed in the Times for showing how “languages convey worlds.”

Tsu’s first book, “Failure, Nationalism, and Literature: The Making of Modern Chinese Identity, 1895-1937” (Stanford University Press, 2005), has been praised as a “bold,” “original,” “a provocative and innovative book that opens up new critical spaces,” and “a seriously good read.” Her second book, “Sound and Script in Chinese Diaspora” (Harvard University Press, 2010), was described as “a truly groundbreaking work in Sinophone studies,” “an unusual, complex, and remarkable book,” “a captivating work of linguistic and literary scholarship,” and a “must-read.”

In addition to the Pulitzer honor, Tsu has received fellowships and recognition from the Harvard Society of Fellows, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Harvard), the New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. She has led lecture series and seminars at the Museum of Chinese in America and the Institute for World Literature, and has delivered keynote lectures at universities and institutes around the world. She engages regularly with the world outside the university on China-related affairs, and her work and research have been profiled in “Lunch with the FT” at Financial Times, PBS/CNN with Christiane Amanpour, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Public Radio, The Economist, Wired, Science, Nature, The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, South China Morning Post, as well as other major national newspapers and media in Europe and Asia.

At Yale, Tsu teaches courses that cross disciplines: her recent undergraduate offerings include courses on China in the world — history, technology, culture, society, literature, and contemporary geopolitics — and on globalization and human rights in Asia (East and Southeast Asia), which have been cross-listed in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Yale Jackson School for Global Affairs, and courses on the culture of the Chinese diaspora and modern Chinese literature, offered in the Department of Comparative Literature, the Humanities Program, and the Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. Her graduate courses include seminars on sympathy, Sinophone studies, and other topics in modern Chinese studies and comparative methodology.

In 2023, she was selected by Yale President Peter Salovey to deliver the DeVane Lectures on the topic “China in Six Keys.” In addition, she has served as chair of the Council on East Asian Studies at the MacMillan Center and as a member of the executive committee of the Whitney Humanities Center, the Humanities Program, and Film & Media Studies Program, and on numerous other university-wide committees. She has previously held two other named Chairs at Yale. She will be Chair of Comparative Literature in Fall 2024.

Tsu has a bachelor of arts degree and master's degree from the University of California-Berkeley and earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University.

Share this with Facebook Share this with X Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this