Guangchen Chen

Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and Comparative Literature. Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow.
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020 Joseph Henry House

Guangchen Chen received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (with a secondary field in Music) from Harvard University, an M.A. in Comparative & World Literature from Peking University and a B.A. in English from Beijing Language University. He was awarded the Frederic Sheldon Traveling Fellowship at Harvard University (2015-16) and a Junior Fellowship with the thematic network “Principles of Cultural Dynamics” at the Freie Universität Berlin (2015).

His first book manuscript, entitled "Collecting as Radical Conservatism: Materialistic Interventions into Literariness in 20th-Century China" and to be completed during his fellowship term at Princeton, addresses the tension between collecting and narrating in modern Chinese literary history. It investigates a striking pattern in which accomplished writers abandoned their innovative literary projects and turned to collecting ancient artifacts, transforming an ostensibly conservative hobby into a form of resistance against the problematic agenda of literary revolution and an increasingly violent and hegemonic version of modernity. He is concurrently working on a second book, tentatively entitled "The Quest for a Negative Musicality: Cross-cultural Imaginations of the Chinese Sound."

Working on Chinese (classical and modern), German, English and Czech literatures and musicology, his research interests include modern Chinese literature and intellectual history, literary-musical relations, Sino-Czech cultural relations, phenomenology of music, and the politics of aesthetics (especially the problem of kitsch). His publications appear in A New Literary History of Modern China (Harvard University Press, 2017), MCLC and CLEAR, among others. He translated Albert Schweitzer’s Bach, David Damrosch's How to Read World Literature and Claire Roberts’ Friendship in Art: Fu Lei and Huang Binhong into Chinese. At Princeton, he has taught a course “On Collecting: Anatomy of an Obsession” and on modern Chinese literature in the context of revolution; in both courses he made use of the rich resources of the University Art Museum and Firestone Library. In fall 2018, he will teach Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle, with an emphasis on its relationship to European cultural history; in spring 2019 he plans to co-teach a course on the literary representations of Chinese sounds with Professor Paize Keulemans, Department of East Asian Studies.