Helen Zhang, PhD
Educated at Peking University, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, and Yale, Huiwen Helen Zhang identifies herself as a Transreader—a lento reader, poetic translator, creative writer, and cultural critic in One. The role of Transreader and the theory of Transreading link Dr. Zhang’s research on Chinese, German, and Scandinavian literature, philosophy, history, and art. Transreading is a synthesized approach that Dr. Zhang utilized in her German book Kulturtransfer über Epochen und Kontinente (Gruyter 2012) and developed into a theory in her English articles, “‘Translated, it is: . . .’—An Ethics of Transreading” (Educational Theory 2014), “Lu Xun contra Georg Brandes: Resisting the Temptation of World Literature” (EU-topías 2017), and “Mu Dan’s Poetry as a History of Modern China” (Oxford 2018). The last recognizes poetry as a source for historical studies. Reading poetry as history allows more than just new access to the historical events that mold a poet. It uncovers lost sentiments, struggles, observations, and critiques that advance our understanding of China. Dr. Zhang’s second book (under contract), Transreading: A Common Language for Cultural Critique, engages those whom Dr. Zhang terms “transreaders of modernity”: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Strindberg, van Gogh, Kollwitz, and Lu Xun. Placing them in juxtaposition and examining how they wrestle with issues in 19th- and 20th-century Europe and Asia illuminates resonances between geographically remote minds. Dr. Zhang’s new book project, Kafka’s Dao: The Patience Game, demonstrates how, through transreading, Kafka transplants the seed of Dao and nurtures it in a European mind. Distinct from the approaches of his contemporaries, Kafka’s Dao is a patience game with words and thoughts maneuvered like marbles. Not only does Kafka’s game echo the voices of ancient Chinese poet-philosophers Laozi and Zhuangzi, but it also delivers their messages in an uncompromising way that continues to inform and inspire us.
Buoyant and uncompromising, Dr. Zhang is a Transreader across genres (poetry, drama, fiction, essay, diary, correspondence, commentary, art critique), media (literature, music, painting, engraving, sculpture, cinema), and cultures (Scandinavia, Germany, Japan, China).
Prompted Transreading is a critical theory that Dr. Zhang has developed to explore how history, literature, philosophy, and art generate and reshape one another.
For Dr. Zhang, Transreading is existential; mother tongue is any language with which a momentary intuited intimacy enables her fully to convey an otherwise inexpressible thought, feeling, or sentiment.
Modern Transreaders transread by Dr. Zhang: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Søren Kierkegaard, Georg Brandes, Friedrich Nietzsche, August Strindberg, Vincent van Gogh, Käthe Kollwitz, Ernst Barlach, Richard Wilhelm, Martin Buber, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lu Xun, Alfred Döblin, Franz Kafka, Feng Zhi, and Mu Dan
Ancient Transreaders transread by Dr. Zhang: Laozi, Zhuangzi, Confucius, Liezi, Sunzi, and Yang Zhu
To learn more about Dr. Zhang’s research, please visit:
Transreading: a method that Dr. Zhang has developed for interdisciplinary studies, which integrates four simultaneous and interdependent activities—close reading (lento reading), literary translation, creative writing, and cultural hermeneutics. These practices are instrumental to understanding the cosmopolitan figures in modern intellectual history that continue to inform our world with works that are often cryptic, but foundational.
German, Scandinavian, and Japanese Literature, Philosophy, and Intellectual History
Modern and Classical Chinese Philology, Poetics, and Philosophy
European-Asian Cultural Transfer and Dialogue
Critical Thinking & Language Innovation
Philosophy in Literature (Literaturphilosophie)
Literature as History (Reading Poetry as History)
Critique via Social Media
Critique via Pop Music
Anatomy of “Breaking News”
To learn more about Dr. Zhang’s teaching, please visit:
Learning a foreign language introduces students to new forms of art and culture. TU students were treated to a workshop on Chinese calligraphy with Professor Helen Zhang and freshman Xiao Ziyu, who is a competitive calligrapher. Interested in Chinese studies? Check out TU's program: https://artsandsciences.utulsa.edu/chinese-studies-program/
Posted by The University of Tulsa on Wednesday, December 5, 2018
- Topics in Chinese Literature and Culture
- Topics in Chinese Media
- Modernization and Its Discontents