Anatoly Detwyler

Credentials: Assistant Professor of Modern China Studies


1238 Van Hise Hall

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 11:30am-1:30pm or by appointment




Areas of Expertise:

Modern Chinese Literature and History, Comparative New Media, Information Studies


Ph.D, Columbia University (2015)

BA, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (2005)


I became inspired to pursue an academic career while an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. After deciding to study Mandarin Chinese on a whim, I took Professor Joseph Allen’s advanced seminar on the Book of Songs (Shijing), the ancient fountainhead of the Chinese poetic tradition. Thanks to Joe’s masterful teaching, this seemingly distant subject came into vivid focus, leaving me with an appreciation of literature more generally, including its social, political, and ritualistic functions. During class, I eagerly poured into my notebooks as many Chinese characters as I could copy from the blackboard, and soon found myself inside a feedback loop: the more I learned about Chinese language and literature, the more I wanted to know.

Research Interests:

After graduating with a BA in Asian Languages and Literatures, I went to Taipei for a year of intensive training at the International Chinese Language Program (ICLP), where I became interested in the complex and fraught history of encounters between China and the world during the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly how they shaped transformations of cultural forms like prose fiction and visual art. In my PhD studies at Columbia University under the direction of Professor Lydia H. Liu, I explored this dynamic as it played out in the literary history of modern China. Building on dissertation research in Beijing and elsewhere, my book project rethinks the development of Republican literary history (1912-1949) as part of a broader revolution in communications technologies and new media. As writers sought to make sense of—and creatively employ—technologies ranging from the statistical table and propaganda to telephony and telegraphy, they collectively developed what I call an “aesthetics of information.” Such experiments transformed the formal and political dimensions of modern Chinese literature, ultimately signaling the arrival of China’s nascent information age. My other research interests include: comparative new media studies, Chinese film, history of science and technology, gender studies, and the digital humanities, particularly text mining and social network analysis.

Selected Publications:

“Self-Repetition and East Asian Literary Modernity” (with Hoyt Long and Yuancheng Zhu), Journal of Cultural Analytics (2018).

Macro trends [观其大较], an ongoing column which I co-author and co-edit with Wentao Jiang (Zhejiang University), published in Shandong Journal of Social Sciences [山东社会科学].

“Contribution to the Annotated Bibliography of the Lu Xun Foreign Book Collection” [鲁迅外文藏 书提要(一则)], Lu Xun Studies Monthly, no. 3 (2012).

Selected Books:

The Aesthetics of Information in Modern Chinese Literary Culture (manuscript under preparation)

Information: A Reader, co-edited with Eric Hayot and Lea Pao (forthcoming with Columbia University Press)

Literary Information in China: A History, co-edited with Jack W. Chen, Xiao Liu, Christopher Nugent, and Bruce Rusk (in progress)

Selected Lectures:

“Big Data in Modern China: On Liang Qichao’s Invention of ‘Historical Statistics,’” AAS Annual Conference, March 2018.

“数字人文前史与早期清华大学史研究” [Research on the Prehistory of Digital Humanities and the Early History of Tsinghua University], Tsinghua University, June 2017.

“Biao as Data Frame: On the Non-linear Management of Literary Information in China,” Literary History of Information Management in China Conference, University of Virginia, May 2017.

“Ripple Effects: Visualizing the Propagation of Information in Leftist Literature and Art in 1930s China,” invited lecture, University of Virginia, April 2017.

“Like Bacteria, Like Bullets: The Poetry of Distant Reading in May Fourth China,” AAS Annual Conference, March 2017.

“On the Mosaic Theory of Information,” Center for Humanities and Information Annual Conference, Penn State, October 2016.

“Modeling the Literary Subject in Modern Japanese and Chinese Fiction” (with Hoyt Long, University of Chicago), NovelTM Annual Workshop, The Banff Center, October 2016.

“From Data Mining to Media Event: Managing Literary Information in Republican China,” The Literary History of Information Management in China, Penn State, September 2016.

“Narrative as Algorithm: A Macroanalysis of Modern Japanese and Chinese Texts” (co-author with Hoyt Long, Richard Jean So, and Yuancheng Zhu, University of Chicago), DHAsia colloquium, Stanford University, March 2016.

“The Handicraft of Writing: Materiality, Form, and Networked Communication in Shen Congwen’s Work, 1934-1960,” Traveling Text/Image/Media Cluster, The Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature Conference, Fudan University (Shanghai), June 2015.

“远读: 信息形象化之吸引力和中国现代文化,1920-1940” [Distant Reading: The Attraction of Information Visualization and Modern Chinese Culture, 1920-1940], Invited Lecture, Department of Chinese, Tsinghua University (Beijing), April 2015.

“Distant Readings: The Aesthetics of Information Visualization in Modern Chinese Literary Culture, 1920-1940,” Invited Lecture, Columbia University Global Centers, Beijing, April 2015.

“Shadow Networks of the Chinese Literary Left” (with Richard Jean So and Hoyt Long), Modern Chinese Style: Words and Worlds in 20th Century China, Berkeley, May 2014.

“The Social Networks of Modern Chinese Poetry” (with Richard Jean So and Hoyt Long), AAS Annual Conference, March 2014.

“News as Literature, Literature as News: Xie Liuyi, Mao Dun, and the Emergence of ‘Information’ in Modern Chinese Literature,” AAS Annual Conference, March 2012.

“Propaganda and Information Society in Modern Chinese Literature,” Association for Asian Studies- Social Science Research Council Workshop on Dissertation Development, Toronto, March 2012.

“‘这不是十八世纪’:茅盾小说《子夜》中的金融资本,抽象化,与信息生态” [“Nor is this the 18th Century”: Financial Capital, Abstraction, and Information Ecology in Mao Dun’s Midnight], Invited Lecture, Department of Chinese, Tsinghua University (Beijing), April 2012.

“Networks of Exchange: Third World Literary Fronts of the Early Cold War,” The Transnational ‘50s: New Perspectives on the Early PRC and the Outside World, Columbia University, May 2011.

“The Avant-garde Monthly and Fascist Modernism in China,” Multimedia Lu Xun Conference, Columbia University, February 2009.

Selected Courses:

Introduction to East Asian civilization (EASTDS 255)

Chinese Film and Pop Culture (EASIAN 520)

Modern Chinese Literature (EASIAN 352 / LITTRANS 262)

Critical Approaches to East Asia

Modern Chinese Literature and the Economic Imagination

Introduction to Chinese Civilization

Documenting the Real in Chinese Literature and Film

Gender and the City in Modern Chinese Literature and Film