East Asian Department hires six profs

Yale’s East Asian Languages and Literatures Department has hired six new professors to teach Chinese language and literature, Director of Undergraduate Studies Christopher Hill announced Wednesday.

Next year, Paize Kulmans and Jing Tsu will teach Chinese literature as assistant professors. The University also made three temporary Chinese language positions permanent and added a fourth by hiring Hsiu-hsien Chan, Min Chen, Fan Liu and Hai-wen Wang to teach language courses.

Hill, who teaches modern Japanese literature, said he thinks both Kulmans and Tsu — with their specialties in late imperial fiction and the literature of the modern Chinese diaspora, respectively — will bring a new perspective on Chinese literature to the University.

“We haven’t regularly offered courses on vernacular fiction, but it will now be a regular part of our curriculum,” Hill said. “And Jing Tsu’s course on Chinese literature looks at it in a different way, a more global way.”

Kulmans, who comes to Yale from Columbia University, will replace professor Hugh Stimson, who is retiring at the end of this year. Tsu, who taught at Rutgers University, is replacing professor Charles Laughlin, who is leaving to head the new Yale-in-Peking program set to begin next year.

The department is also working on hiring a full professor, Hill said. He predicted that the hire would become official this summer.

Kulmans said he is “elated” to be coming to the University in the fall.

“Yale’s a top institution,” he said. “To find an opening in what I do at an institution like that is quite amazing.”

When he was teaching at Columbia, Kulmans also taught courses in martial arts, literature and cinema, but he said he plans to mostly abandon that field of study when he takes up his post in New Haven. This will not be a problem for him, he said, because his training really lies in vernacular fiction.

“With the new hires, [the department has] become quite exciting,” Kulmans said. “It was previously smaller, but now I think we’ll be quite competitive.”

Tsu said she was excited to be hired as a contemporary specialist for the University and mentioned her desire to help Yale in its expanding East Asian studies programs.

“I want to build on the solid foundation already here, but also bring a more interdisciplinary approach,” she said.

While she acknowledged the prestige of the University, Tsu said the main reason she accepted Yale’s offer was the strength of the department.

Charles Alvarez ’09, who said he has long been passionate about East Asian studies, said he is interested in some of the new offerings, but he is worried that classes on China might wind up dominating the department.

“Anything involving the Chinese diaspora is interesting to me,” he said. “The only thing I worry about is excluding other areas of discussion within East Asia.”

Patrick McCarthy ’09, who expressed a similar interest in the major, said that although he also thinks the class on the diaspora will be potentially interesting, he believes the department might already have enough literature classes. He said he has witnessed rising demand for classes in the department at Yale.

“I think certainly that Yale’s interest in East Asia has skyrocketed,” McCarthy said.

Hill agreed that interest in this area has been rapidly increasing and suggested several causes of the new wave of student interest.

“A lot of the interest is driven by economics,” he said. “But in addition, Chinese film and film from Taiwan and Hong Kong have been an important aspect on the world film scene.”

Tsu said she hopes to stay at Yale as long as possible.

“It all depends, but right now I have nothing but positive feelings,” she said. “I hope the feeling is mutual, but the expansion of the China side is something more long-term that I hope to be working on.”

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