Graduate Students

Ph.D. Students

Taranee Yuning  Cao

Taranee Cao is a PhD candidate specializing in Japanese linguistics, and her dissertation investigates the factors influencing usages of honorifics and how honorifics should be taught. Topics of her previous projects include Japanese youth language (wakamonokotoba) and acquisition of Japanese mimetics. In general, she is interested in pragmatics, sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, and language teaching. She is certified in ACTFL OPI testing and is currently serving as a Graduate Teaching Consultant.

Yan Chang’s current project centers on trans-linguality, trans-culture, and trans-nationality in post-Cold War Japanophone literature. His academic concerns also include visuality and modernity of modern Japanese literature in the Taisho period as well as Shanghai urbanization and the concomitant media representations in the 1990s.

Melissa Hosek

Melissa A. Hosek is a PhD candidate specializing in modern Chinese literature with interests in environmental humanities, science, technology and society studies (STS), and digital humanities. Her dissertation examines how technological progress transforms ideas regarding nature and environmentalism in modern Chinese literature. Working primarily with science fiction narratives, she analyzes how writers and filmmakers diagnose the changing human-nature relationship amidst science-driven development since the 1970s. Her research constructs an ecocritical literary history of contemporary Chinese science fiction and maps the transformation of humanistic reactions to the environmental crisis. In addition to her dissertation research, she is also interested in Chinese language teaching and learning in higher education, and is certified in Language Program Management and ACTFL OPI testing. In the field of digital humanities, she has developed several projects and received the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities. Her other interests include: materialism, science fiction studies, critical theory, and nationalism.

Elise Huerta

My dissertation, Untouchable: On the Cultural Politics of Hands in Modern China, aims to produce new understandings of intimacy, alienation, labor, and violence in the modern era through the interdisciplinary study of tactile culture. The project explores the many powers invested in human hands through narrative, taking a particular interest in the discourses and social mechanisms that contribute to the construction of "untouchable" people and groups. Her research will be supported by a Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in 2021-2022 and an AAUW American Fellowship in 2022-2023.

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Akira Kohbara's interests lie at the intersection between queerness and disability. In particular, his research explores the nexus of masculinity, male-male desire, and non-normative body-minds in modern and contemporary Japanese Literature. Akira's translation of "To Hell with Happy Endings! An Anti-School Manifesto" by Tsuneno Yujiro (2005) has appeared on The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus in September, 2018. (link here:
Maciej Kurzynski

I am a Ph.D. Candidate majoring in Modern Chinese Literature. Before coming to Stanford, I received a Bachelor’s degree in History of Art from the University of Warsaw and a Master’s degree in Literary Theory (文艺学) from Zhejiang University.

In my research, I combine the fields of distributional semantics, cognitive literary studies, aesthetic theory, and intellectual history to understand the ways in which Chinese writers appeal to human emotionality and engage with PRC nationalism. Whereas the bulk of current digital scholarship in the humanities focuses on amassing huge amounts of data (geographical, historical, social, infrastructural) and provides publicly available tools to explore this data, I conceive of my work as an interpretive endeavor—I believe it is possible to “distant read” a single novel. I am particularly interested in formal devices that writers need to constantly invent and reinvent in order to evoke strong and deep emotions in readers: how is emotional vocabulary distributed diachronically in modern Chinese texts? What narrative technologies are employed to situate the same plot in various contexts in such a way as to provoke diametrically different emotions and interpretations? What cognitive affordances and ethical frameworks are made available through formal rearrangements of the exact same plot in different narratives? One of my attempts to confront such questions by using computational methods and metaphors can be seen in this recording (YouTube) from the Digital Orientalist conference (and in this sublime poster).

Besides, I am a proud member and co-organizer of the Save Cantonese campaign, aiming to restore the Cantonese language program at Stanford, and a recipient of the 2020 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship (SIGF). 


Bingxiao Liu
Pre-modern Chinese Literature
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I research the intersection of Japanese literary modernism and Natsume Soseki. Other interests include Meiji and Taisho Era literatures, the history of literary criticism in Japan, 20th century literary theory and the theory of the novel.
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Research interests: pragmatics, semantics, sociolinguistics, 役割語 (role language)

Jie Shen works in Chinese archaeology and osteoarchaeology, especially focusing on exploring the technology of bone artefacts with experimental archaeology methods.  Jie’s master’s thesis worked on the decorative techniques of Basket pattern (篮纹) in the Qijia Culture and did a series of replicate experiments.

Ya-Ting Tsai’s primary research interests lie at Chinese linguistics and culture. She is particularly interested in how socio-political separation between China and Taiwan leads to cultural change, and how this difference is manifested in her mother tongues, Taiwanese and Taiwan Mandarin.

Katherine Whatley
My research focuses on how gender informs music and literature in premodern Japan. Through studying the koto—Japanese transverse harp—and Japanese pre-modern music more generally, I examine the intersection of gender and music in the Heian period, and the transcultural interactions between Japan and East Asia during the pre-modern era. My methodology is necessarily transdisciplinary: combining literary analysis, musicology, and the study of material culture in order to understand the function of music in the premodern era. It is also feminist in nature; I study musical motifs and gender roles in Heian-era literary works, combined with feminist analysis to understand how women expressed their emotions and related to the world around them through music and writing. Through focusing on music and gender, I seek the voices the voices of those who have long been forgotten. I hope to amplify the connections between cultures and peoples, relationships that are not always heard.
Yanping Lu
medieval Chinese literature and history, Chinese shi poetry, gender studies in medieval China

MA Students

Weiting (“Crystal”) Yu is a master’s student of modern and contemporary Chinese literature with an interest in comparative literature. Before coming to Stanford, she completed her B.A. in Chinese language and literature at Fudan University in June 2021. Currently learning French, she wishes to study the influence of Francophone and Anglophone literatures on Chinese literature during the modern period. Specific topics she wishes to explore include Romanticism and its influence, global modernisms, and ecocriticism. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and watercolor painting. 

My research interests lie at the intersection between mass media, visual culture and gender studies, particularly focusing on how mass media shapes the reality of modern women in China and the imagination towards them. Other interests include technological fetishism, ecocriticism and feminism.