Chair's Newsletter

Fall 2021                                                                                                

I write at the tail end of our momentous first week back to campus, after eighteen months of lockdowns and remote instruction. I wish I could say that the first day back was triumphal, rather than tiring. That it was a carefree return to form, and not an anxious step toward an uncertain new normal. That the joy hadn’t been muted by the Delta variant, and by a new mask mandate. And yet! What a pleasure it was to finally stand together with students in a classroom, to see the campus bloom with life, to get back to the work of teaching and learning together. Our first week may have been worrisome, it may have been weird, but I hope we can all take quiet satisfaction in the courage and resilience of our community, and celebrate the determination of our students to come home to Cal.

None of this, of course, could have happened without our devoted staff and, yes, our devoted administrators. Preparing to come back to in-person instruction has been infinitely more complex than locking down. I have a had front seat view of the hard and grinding work behind-the-scenes that made this all possible. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.


Fully half of our undergraduates are arriving on campus for the first time, and EALC and Asian Studies are also welcoming a bumper crop of new graduate students. Jay Husson (premodern Chinese literature) and Drew Korschun (modern Japanese and Korean) have joined us this fall. Kelly Fan (modern Chinese literature) and Leon Jenkins (modern Japanese literature) are also making the transition from the Asian Studies MA program into our doctoral cohort. We are also joined this year by a vibrant group of seven new master’s students in Asian Studies. A warm welcome to all!

Finally, let’s all celebrate the long-awaited arrival this Fall of Professor Kevin Michael Smith — a wonderful addition to our faculty in EALC, and to the endeavor of expanding Korean Studies across campus. We are so glad you are here, Kevin!


Four of our graduate students have recently completed, or are on the brink of completing, their doctoral work at Cal. Melissa Van Wyk is on her way to taking up an assistant professorship in Japanese literature at the University of Chicago upon completion of a dissertation entitled “Restaging the Spectacular: Misemono and Kabuki Theater 1700–1900,” that calls into question existing discourses about kabuki dramaturgy and reveals the theatrical nature of public discourses of knowledge, medicine, and wonder in early modern Japan. Chris Elford, whose dissertation examines the media and material basis of the emergence of new poetic voices in the Han and Six Dynasties period, will be taking up a two-year postdoctoral berth at Hamilton College. Julia Keblinska has filed her dissertation on media culture at the cusp of China’s post-socialist transition. She will be taking up a postdoctoral fellowship situated jointly in the Centers for Historical Research, Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and East Asian Studies at the Ohio State University. Xiangjun Feng has also recently filed a thesis on the “Secret Scroll” in late imperial and early twentieth century Chinese print culture. Warm congratulations to all of you!

Mingzhe Zheng of the Chinese Language Program, finally, has taken up a new post teaching at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey. We wish you well, Mingzhe!

New Courses and New Initiatives

While the pandemic has raged, our faculty and graduate students have been assiduously developing new courses and curricula to respond to a rapidly changing world and to student needs. This fall, Kevin Smith will be teaching a new graduate seminar, East Asian 204, on “Romanticism and Asia.” Professor Yoko Hasegawa will launch Japanese 164, “Reading Japanese Texts Using Grammatical Analysis.” Alan Tansman is teaching or co-teaching three new courses this year: an "Art of Writing" class called "Writing the Limits of Empathy"; a class with Jake Dalton called "East Asian Texts, Psychoanalytic Readings"; and a "Compass Course" called "What is Asia," co-taught with Tang Chenxi (German) and Colleen Lye (English).

In reaction to the horrific epidemic of anti-Asian violence across the US, a group of graduate students, including Xiaoyu Xia, Hardy Stewart, Chelsea Ward, Amanda Su (English), Cheng-Chai Chiang (English) among others have imagined and begun to implement a new initiative for cross-departmental, anti-racist curricular reform in the East Asian humanities. The initial course in this effort is being offered this fall as an R1B course in EALC, “Building Worlds” on Asian and AAPI speculative fiction, taught by Ramya Janandharan (Ethnic Studies). We look forward to further augmenting Cal’s offerings in the Asian humanities for entering students.

Another group of graduate students including Julia Keblinska, Jianqing Chen (Film and Media Studies), Yvonne Lin, Jiahe Mei, and Linda Zhang, have been busy translating and subtitling films from post-1949 China, with support from the Graduate Assembly and the Berkeley Language Center (BLC). The films will be made available on Lumiere, and available for viewing and inclusion in a broad array of syllabi.

Wendy Wan-ting Wang is also teaching a border-crossing new R&C course called “The Islandic, the Archipelagic, and the Oceanic.”

Chika Shibahara of the Japanese Language Program was one of six lecturers selected for a BLC fellowship, allowing her to develop a new series of lesson plans based on film clips. She will present her work this coming semester at BLC. And Yuriko Miyamoto Caltabiano is in the final stages of developing an exciting new summer course that combines language study abroad in Japan with public service and community engagement.

New Books and Articles

Scholars in EALC also continue to extend the realm of knowledge in their respective fields.

Kelvin Chi Leung Chan has just published, with primary author Hu Mingxiao, Learning Mandarin and Cantonese Through Classroom Conversations (Hong Kong: Chung Hwa, 2021).

Chika Shibahara has co-authored with Claire Kramsch a chapter in a book called 日本語教育の新しい地図” (“State-of -the Art in Japanese Language Education: Rewriting Expert Knowledge”), published by Hiitsuji Shobo, Tokyo, in 2021. 

Yifan Zheng has published  a book chapter, co-authored with Professor Mark Csikszentmihalyi, entitled "Narratives of Decline and Fragmentation, and the Hanshu Bibliographic Taxonomies of Technical Arts.” The volume in which the chapter appears, Technical Arts in the Han Histories, was edited by Mark Csikszentmihalyi and Michael Nylan (SUNY Press, 2021).

Mark Blum's edited volume, Selected Works of D.T. Suzuki, Volume IV: Buddhist Studies was released in December 2020 by the University of California Press. It compiles eighteen of Suzuki's essays with annotations and a critical introduction. Professor Blum also published an article in Japanese, called 鈴木大拙が企てる大乗版プロテスタント仏教 ――「真の宗教」としての「大乗仏教概論』――” (Suzuki Daisetsu Attempts a Mahāyāna Version of Protestant Buddhism)in Suzuki DaisetsuZen wo koete鈴木大拙 禅を超えて』(D.TSuzukiBeyond Zen)Tokyo: Shibunkaku 思文閣出版.

Robert Sharf has published, with co-editors Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest, a new book from Oxford University Press entitled What Can’t Be Said: Paradox and Contradiction in East Asian Thought.

Ling Hon Lam’s “Premodern Fiction and Fiction Collections” appeared in a new collected volume edited by Jack W. Chen, Anatoly Detwyler, Christopher M.B. Nugent, Xiao Liu, and Bruce Rusk called Literary Information in China: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2021).

Sophie Volpp’s "How to Read the Jin Ping Mei" is forthcoming in a volume entitled How to Read Chinese Fiction published by Columbia University Press. She also has an essay on the Harvard-Yenching's grants of 1942-44 to Chinese sinologists forthcoming in Chinese in Ouzhou Hanxue(European Sinology)from Zhonghua shuju, and in English in a volume entitled The China Experience and the Making of Sinology from Harrasowitz Verlag.

Mikiko Soga has recently published an essay entitled "Traditional and Modern Beauty in Japan’s Meiji Period: Material Culture, Clothing, and Consumer Practices” in A Cultural History of Beauty in the Age of Empire, edited Jessica P. Clark. London: Bloomsbury (2021).

Daryl Maude has published a piece entitled “Grass-Colored Air: Breathing with Osaki Midori” as part of a special dossier on “breath” in Qui Parle 30:1 (June 2021).

Be on the lookout, finally, for the imminent release of Sophie Volpp’s new monograph Substantive Fictions: Literary Objects in China 1550-1775 (forthcoming from Columbia University Press); a newly revised edition of Eileen Chang’s Written on Water (translated by Andrew F. Jones and forthcoming from NYRB Press); and Alan Tansman’s Very Short Introduction to Japanese Literature from Oxford University Press.

Fellowships and Leaves

Huang Opportunity Program Scholar Tina Tianyi Liu won a URAP Summer Fellowship ( to continue working with Professor Volpp on her project on the "Preservation of Rare Books in Republican China.”

Wendy Wan-Ting Wang was awarded a fellowship from The Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines Endowment Fund to facilitate her research on media technology and indigeneity in Taiwan.

Yifan Zheng has received a dissertation completion fellowship from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for Scholarly Exchange. 

Both Paula Varsano and Weihong Bao will be serving as fellows at the Townsend Center for the Humanities this year. Professor Bao will be on leave as she works on her new book project entitled "Background Matters: Set Design and the Art of Environment." She will also participate in a UCHRI Residential Research Group studying “Distance/Proximity.”

Sophie Volpp has also received research support from the Humanities Research Fellowship and the Mellon Project Grant in pursuance of a new book on the history of the National Peiping Library, and will be on sabbatical.

Changes and Contributions

Our very own Jan Johnson was enthusiastically nominated for and awarded campus-wide recognition for her “Excellence in Management.” Jan has not only competently, compassionately, and unflappably led the department through the complex challenges of the pandemic, but also presided over important changes in our staffing arrangements. EALC, the Group in Buddhist Studies, and the Group in Asian Studies have joined forces with South and Southeast Asian Studies, Ancient Greek and Roman, and the program in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology. As part of this “clustering” process, Kristen Brooks (who is GSAO for AGRS and SEASS), and Linda Eason (who handles reimbursements, reservations, and purchases) have moved downstairs. Cassandra Dunn (who will be working on outreach and communications for the cluster) remains upstairs. Please welcome them all into the EALC fold!

Starting this fall as well, Damien Donelly (Chinese Language Program), Soojin Lee (Korean Language Program), and Yukiko Tsuchiya (Japanese Language Program) have begun two-year terms as representatives for their respective programs. At the same time, a trio of lecturers will be participating in a Pedagogy Improvement Project, aimed at studying, building on, and further refining our already formidable language programs. A heartfelt thanks to Weisi Cai (CLP), Ina Choi (KLP), and Hayato Saito (JLP) for serving in this capacity.

Give Thanks

The past eighteen months have been difficult — but as you can see from the foregoing account, we have as a department risen to not one, but many challenges. I want to thank every one of you for your dedication to our calling as educators and scholars. Despite Delta, and in defiance of wildfires, I am looking forward to the semester, and to spending time together once again as a community! Take care and Go Bears!