Judith Zeitlin

Judith Zeitlin, Ph.D.

William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Wieboldt 406
Teaching and Research Interests: 


Annual Chinese New Year's dumpling party hosted by Professors Judith Zeitlin and Wu Hung. Annual Chinese New Year's dumpling party hosted by Professors Judith Zeitlin and Wu Hung.

Ming-Qing literary and cultural history, with specialties in the classical tale and drama.  

I'm especially interested in combining literary history with other disciplines, such as visual and material culture, music, performance, medicine and film. Two books of mine came out from the University of Hawaii Press in 2007. The first, called The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature explores the representation of ghosts across the range of literary genres in the late Ming and early Qing, specifically the fantasy of a female corpse revived through love, the imagination of death through a ghostly poetic voice, the mourning of the historical past by the present, and the theatricality of the split between body and soul. The second book is an interdisciplinary volume of essays, co-edited with Charlotte Furth and Ping-chen Hsiung, entitled Thinking with Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History to which I contributed a piece on the literary self-fashioning of a famous and garrulous sixteenth-century physician named Sun Yikui. I'm currently working on a new book project on the cultural of musical entertainment and its relationship to courtesans, opera, and material culture during the late Ming and early Qing. The book emerges out of research on the voice, musical instruments, and musical texts that I've been engaged in for the past several years. Recent essays of mine on these subjects include a cultural biography of a rare type of stringed instrument, published in the Dec 2009 issue of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. I'm also continuing to work on ghosts and theater in other media--I contributed an article to an exhibition catalogue on the eighteenth-century painter Luo Ping's famous Ghost Amusement handscroll for the first retrospective of the artist that opened in Zurich in spring 2009 and later traveled to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. And now I'm also curating an exhibition on Chinese opera and visual culture (with co-curator EALC grad student Yuhang Li) to be held at University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art for 2014. The two of us will be traveling around looking at special collections in North American museums this winter and spring.

Finally, I've begun to venture into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries with a multi-phase collaborative project on Chinese opera film. Paola Iovene and I co-organized a symposium called "Chinese Opera Film after 1949" at Chicago in April 2009. Many of the papers presented there, including my case study of a PRC ghost opera film from 1958, were then published in a special double issue of The Opera Quarterly (Summer/Fall 2010). Along with our new colleague Xinyu Dong in Cinema and Media Studies, we're now in the throes of organizing a follow-up conference on Chinese opera film to be held in the new University of Chicago in Beijing Center.

Selected Publications: 


The Phantom Heroine

The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature (University of Hawai’i, 2007)

Thinking with Cases

Thinking with Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History, co-edited with Charlotte Furth and Ping-chen Hsiung (University of Hawai’i, 2007)

Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (Stanford, 1993)

Writing and Materiality in China, co-edited with Lydia Liu (Harvard, 2003)


The Cultural Biography of a Musical Instrument: Little Hulei as Sounding Object, Antique, Prop, and Relic
Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
Volume 69, Number 2, December 2009, pp. 395-441

Between Performance, Manuscript, and Print: Imagining the Musical Text in Seventeenth-Century Plays and Songbooks (2009)

“The Gift of Song: Courtesans and Patrons in late Ming and early Qing Cultural Production.” In Hsiang Lectures on Chinese Poetry, ed. Grace Fong. McGill University: Centre for East Asian Research, (2008).

“’Notes of Flesh’: The Courtesan’s Song in Seventeenth-Century China” in The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, ed. Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon  (2006)

 “Music and Performance in Palace of Lasting Life” in Trauma and Transcendence in Chinese Literature, ed. Idema, Li, and Widmer (2006)

“The Life and Death of the Image: Ghosts and Portraits in Chinese Literature” in Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture, ed. Wu Hung and Katherine Tsiang (Harvard, 2005)

 “Xiaoshuo” in The Novel, ed. Franco Moretti (2006)

 “Shared Dreams: The Story of the Three Wives’ Commentary on The Peony Pavilion” (1994)

Selected articles in Chinese by Cai Jiudi:

“Chongshen yu fenshen: Mingmo Zhongguo xiqu zhong de ‘hun dan.’ [Doubling and Splitting the Phantom Heroine in Seventeenth-Century Drama] In Tang Xianzu yu Mudanting yanjiu [Research on Tang Xianzu and Peony Pavilion], ed. Hua Wei (Taipei, 2006)

 “Tibishi yu Ming Qing zhi ji dui funü shi di shouji” [Writing on Walls and the Collection of Women’s Poetry in the Late Ming and Early Qing.]  In Ming Qing wenxue yu xingbie yanjiu [Ming Qing Literature and Gender, ed. Zhang Hongsheng, (Nanjing, 2002)

  • East Asian Civilization: Beijing the Capital: Urban Space and Performance (Fall 2008)
  • The Martial Arts Tradition in Chinese Literature and Film (Winter 2009)
  • The Literary Life of Things (Spring 2009)
  • Elementary and Intermediate Literary Chinese (Spring 2009)
  • Intermediate Literary Chinese (Fall 2006)
  • History and Methods of Chinese Literature: the Vernacular Tradition (Fall 2006)
  • Readings in World Literature: Fiction about Fiction (Spring 2006)
  • The Martial Arts Tradition in Chinese Literature and Film (Spring 2006)
  • Courtesan Culture and the Arts in China (Spring 2005)
  • Women Writers in Late-Imperial China (Winter 2005)