Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Keru Cai

Keru Cai

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Comparative Literature
Preferred Pronouns: she, her, hers

Fall 2022 Office Hours

Tu/Th 2:30-3:30pm


B.A. Harvard University, 2011
M.St. University of Oxford, 2012
M.A. Harvard University, 2014
Ph.D. UC Berkeley, 2020

Professional Bio

I am Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Comparative Literature, specializing in modern Chinese appropriations from Russian, English, and French literatures. My work investigates how modern Chinese writers made innovations in literary form to depict issues of gender, class, and race. My first book project, From Russia, with Squalor: Poverty in Modern Chinese Realism, will show how Chinese intellectuals drew upon Russian literature to write about poverty, in a bid to enrich Chinese culture by creating a syncretic new realism. At the same time, writers remained keenly aware of the problematic nature of deploying this weighty topic for aesthetic purposes. My second book will examine modern Chinese literary depictions of women’s spatial entrapment and escape. Other current projects include the idea of the “superfluous woman” in modern Chinese literature; women’s world literature; resonances of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films in those of Bi Gan; and the paradigm of trans-Eurasian studies. I have published articles in journals such as Comparative LiteratureModern Chinese Literature and CulturePrism: Theory and Modern Chinese LiteratureConcentric: Literary and Cultural Studies, and Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews. Before coming to Penn State, I was a prize research fellow at Magdalen College, University of Oxford.


Research Interests:

Modern Chinese literature and culture, gender and sexuality, Sino-Russian cultural relations, trans-Eurasian studies, literary realisms, and world literature.


“The Spatiality of Poverty in Modern Chinese Realism” (forthcoming in Comparative Literature, September 2023)
“Maxim Gorky in China: 1920s Commentary and Shen Congwen’s ‘Three Men and One Woman,’” in CLEAR: Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, and Reviews (forthcoming, 2022)
“The Proximity Effect: Agency and Isolation in Eileen Chang’s ‘Love in a Fallen City'” (forthcoming in Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies, March 2022)
“Looking, Reading, and Intertextuality in Ding Ling’s ‘Shafei nüshi de riji,’” in PRISM: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (Fall 2020).
“The Temporality of Poverty: Realism in Lao She’s Camel Xiangzi,” in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (Spring 2020)