Haun Saussy, leading scholar in Chinese and comparative literature, appointed University Professor

Haun Saussy, a leading scholar of Chinese and comparative literature, has been named University Professor of Comparative Literature in the Division of the Humanities and the College at the University of Chicago.

Saussy will become the 17th person ever to hold the title of University Professor, an honor given to distinguished scholars whose work has the potential for high impact across the University. His appointment takes effect July 1.

”I am confident that Haun Saussy, with his passion for the literatures, art and traditions of global cultures, will be a marvelous addition to our vibrant community of scholars,” said Martha T. Roth, Dean of the Division of the Humanities, in a message to Humanities faculty.

Saussy is renowned for the breadth of his expertise in the literatures of many languages and cultures. He learned Chinese while studying in Paris, and has since maintained an active interest in both Chinese and European literature.

Saussy’s first book, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic, a study of commentary on the Chinese Book of Songs, received the 1996 René Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association. He is also the author of a collection of essays, Great Walls of Discourse and Other Adventures in Cultural China, and editor of Sinographies: Writing China and Chinese Women Poets: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticism from Ancient Times to 1911. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. Saussy comes to UChicago from Yale University, where he is currently the Bird White Housum Professor of Comparative Literature.

“This position is an amazing honor,” Saussy said of his appointment. “The University of Chicago is a place where the quality of conversation is renowned. There are a lot of groups [at the University of Chicago] that bring together people with different backgrounds and different obsessions to come up with common ideas and projects. Being with smart people from many disciplines who see the value of having a broad conversation is really wonderful for me.”

Saussy added that the University’s growing international presence, including the Center in Beijing and the Center in Paris, was an important factor in his decision to join the faculty. “I think the U. of C. has found an ideal model for carrying out its vision of global scholarship.”

In 2005, Saussy edited Comparative Literature in an Era of Globalization, the American Comparative Literature Association’s 2005 report on the state of the discipline, and he continues to write about the future of the field. Since 2009, Saussy also has served as president of the ACLA.

“Haun Saussy is a great scholar of Chinese poetry, but he’s equally important in comparative literature,” said Françoise Meltzer, Chair of Comparative Literature and the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in Comparative Literature, the Divinity School and the College. “As important as he is as a Chinese scholar, he’s also identified as having a truly international approach to literature. His appointment is wonderful news.”

In addition to his research on early Chinese poetry, Saussy has published on a wide variety of topics, including Chinese musicology, contemporary art, oral literature and Haitian poetry. He recently edited Partner to the Poor, a book on the international work of physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer.

“Haun is a real citizen of the world,” said Edward Shaughnessy, the Chair of East Asian Languages & Civilizations and the Lorraine J. & Herrlee G. Creel Distinguished Service Professor in Early Chinese Studies and East Asian Languages & Civilizations. “Whether it be Chinese literature or Germanic literature or Romance literature, he’s going to have a contribution to make—and I expect he will play a role in making connections between those departments.”

Judith Zeitlin, Professor in East Asian Languages & Civilizations, also praised the breadth of Saussy’s interests. “His range is so incredible—he’s written about everything,” she said. “I’m thrilled. It’s a great thing for the study of China at the University of Chicago.”

Saussy received his B.A. from Duke University, and his M.Phil and Ph.D. from Yale. He has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles; Stanford University; the City University of Hong Kong; and the Université de Paris-III.

Saussy is the second University Professor appointed this year. The other is composer Augusta Read Thomas, who will join the faculty in the Department of Music in July.

The appointment of Saussy will bring to six the number of University Professors currently on campus. In addition to Saussy and Thomas, the others are Alexander Beilinson, the David and Mary Winton Green University Professor in Mathematics and the College; Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics, Sociology and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business; James Cronin, University Professor Emeritus in Physics and Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Enrico Fermi Institute and the College; and David Wellbery, the LeRoy T. and Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson University Professor in Germanic Studies, Comparative Literature, Social Thought and the College.