Professor Saussy joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2011. He received his B.A. (Greek and Comparative Literature) from Duke University and his M.Phil and Ph.D from Yale (Comparative Literature); between undergraduate and graduate schools, he studied linguistics and Chinese in Paris. He has previously taught at UCLA, Stanford, Yale, the City University of Hong Kong, and the Université de Paris-III. He was president (2009-2011) of the American Comparative Literature Association. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Faculty Advisory Board for the University of Chicago Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society.
An avid cyclist, he discovered that long road trips favor the memorization of verb paradigms and lyric poetry, which happen to be two of his main intellectual interests. His first book, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic (Stanford UP, 1993), discussed the tradition of commentary that has grown up around the early Chinese poetry collection Shi jing (known in English as the Book of Songs), finding in that tradition a basis for examining questions of intercultural hermeneutics, the theory of figural language, and the relation between literature and philosophy. His second book, Great Walls of Discourse and Other Adventures in Cultural China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2001), an account of the ways of knowing and describing specific to China scholarship, Chinese as well as foreign. The Ethnography of Rhythm: Orality and Its Technologies (2016) traces a sinuous line among Homeric studies, material media, dialectology, and mnemonic dance to guide readers through the remoter provinces of what Jacques Derrida called “archi-writing.” Translation as Citation: Zhuangzi Inside Out (2017) reconsiders some extremely “domesticating” translations into Chinese and discovers their common ancestor, the early philosophical compilation Zhuangzi. Are We Comparing Yet? On Standards, Justice, and Incomparability (2019) interrogates the many forms of comparison, from academic to everyday, with particular attention to the invidious kind. The Making of Barbarians: China in Multilingual Asia (2022) reminds us that, far from being on the margins of “world literature,” China has been a center in its own right for thousands of years and has long appropriated the speech and artistry of its alien neighbors, changing their forms and meanings in the process. His current project is the editing of a multi-author international literary history of Asia from the Bronze Age to the present.
With Kang-i Sun Chang, he edited Chinese Women Poets, And Anthology of Poetry and Criticism from Ancient Times to 1911 (Stanford, 1999); other edited collections include Comparative Literature in an Era of Globalization (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), Sinographies: Wrtiting China (with Steven Yao and Eric Hayot; University of Minnesota Press, 2005), Chinese Walls in Time and Space (with Roger des Forges, Chiao-mei Liu and Gao Minglu; Cornell Asia Center, 2009), Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader (University of California Press, 2010), and Ferdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics (with Perry Meisel; Columbia University Press, 2011). With graduate students Jonathan Stalling and Lucas Klein, he produced a critical edition of The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound (Fordham University Press, 2008). Articles published in journals and collections touch on topics such as the imaginary universal languages of Athanasius Kircher, Chinese musicology, the great Qing-dynasty novel Honglou meng, the current situation and theoretical perplexities of comparative literature, the history of the idea of oral literature, Haitian poetry, health care for the global poor, and contemporary art. With a collective of artists led by Mel Chin, he contributed to the design of some sixty sculptural installations for the new public and university library of San Jose, California.
Professor Saussy's primary teaching and research interests include classical Chinese poetry and commentary, literary theory, comparative study of oral traditions, problems of translation, pre-twentieth-century media history, and ethnography and ethics of medical care.
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