B.A. (Hons.), 2009, English Literature, National University of Singapore
Ph.D., 2015, Comparative Literature, Emory University
My research centers on translation in literature from the twentieth century to the contemporary, with a particular interest in transpacific and global formations between the Chinese and English languages. At the conceptual heart of my work is an affinity with ‘bad’—failed, malformed, illegible, marginalized, racialized—translations: I follow them to the places they may go, outline the questions they may ask, and explain the things they may do.
My first book project, Unfinished Translation: The Promise of Transpacific Relation, presents a sustained account of translation for transpacific literary studies. Its archive is drawn from twentieth-century writing that began life in translations between the Chinese and English languages, China and the U.S., Asia and America: those initial nodes of language and location through which the transpacific field first defined itself. My question centers on moments and texts that do not reach formal completion, sometimes remaining unpublished until posthumous recovery, sometimes with one translator requiring another translator to complete the work, or yet other times ending with nothing but empty space. In body chapters that focus on Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing), Ernest Fenollosa, Yang Lian, and Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha, I argue that their unfinished, even rudimentary works of translation at once make and break the liberal promises of transpacific futurity.
My second book project, Just Translation, simply asks: How Does A Translation Lay Claim to Justice? While the corrective politics of translation has often been articulated in institutionalized contexts (nations, literary marketplaces, canons), I instead turn towards improvised forms of translation in our contemporary lives: transactions in multilingual and code-switching environments, communication through gestures and sign language, search-bar translation, and the pseudo-universal semiotics of emoji. Often characterized as malignant symptoms of ‘globalish’ and neoliberalism, these forms of small translation still lay claim to another dimension in those exertions of power: a potential bent toward justice that remains pervasive, enduring, and available. Intertwining the insights of literary, materialist, and biopolitical theory with the interdisciplinary field of translation studies, Just Translation makes sense of how translation continues to matter in worlds that anticipate its eventual demise.
My work on graduate student committees focuses on thoughtful crossings of linguistic and national boundaries, exemplified in the research interests listed above. In graduate teaching and mentorship, I foster intense engagement through (i) active listening, (ii) attention to writing as mediated thought, (iii) situating knowledge within its conditions of production, and activating it beyond, (iv) reflection on methodology, and (v) articulating the stakes of comparison. Using these methods, I work with students to sharpen and expand the commitments that brought them to the program, with the aim of eliciting their best work and imagining fulfilling careers. Our emphasis throughout is on developing exceptional written work: the central element of a competitive academic profile, and indicative of a focused work ethic that translates well beyond the academy. This dovetails with a down-to-earth understanding of the structural realities of doctoral study, whose complexities we are then well-positioned to approach in nuanced and non-prescriptive ways. In practical terms, this means fostering agile minds, rigorous academic preparation, self-awareness, and organizational skills for the work ahead.
I am also attuned to the socio-cultural determinants and effects of education. This translates to demystifying the tacit expectations and social arrangements of the North American academy for students at all levels, while working to shift those structures. I adopt practical and sustainable strategies against the intersecting operations of institutionalized and state power, class, race, gender, sexuality, health, and visibility. For example, my teaching seeks to develop reading, writing, research, and meta-cognitive (‘thinking about how you think’) skills that can be unevenly introduced in the time prior to college or graduate school. By adjusting for these and related factors that subtly determine student success, I work for equal student access and outcomes in the classroom and beyond. In addition, I warmly welcome conversations about how best to support disabled, chronically ill, first-generation college, working and working-class, parenting, undocumented, immigrant, international, LGBTQ+, and historically under-represented students.
In 2018, I will serve as Book Review Editor for Comparative Literature, the discipline’s official journal housed at the University of Oregon. I also work on the department’s graduate placement for the academic job market. As pre-tenure faculty, I am not directing dissertations at this time.
I was born and raised bilingual in the multilingual Southeast Asian city-nation of Singapore, and have been working in the United States academy since 2009.
Journal Articles in Print
“Non-Event.” CR: The New Centennial Review 17.1 (2017): 73-91. (Solicited.)
"Sustaining Nothing: Untranslatable Material in Beckett's Worstward Ho." Comparative Literature Studies 50.1 (2013): 25-42.
"Responsibility, Biodegradability." Oxford Literary Review 32.1 (2010): 91-108.
Edited Journal Issue
"Deconstruction and the Politics of Matter." Oxford Literary Review. Co-edited with Geoffrey Bennington.