Jiayi Chen joins EALC in fall 2023.
Professor Jiayi Chen is a scholar of early modern Chinese literature and culture. Her research and teaching interests include premodern Chinese literature, game studies, visual and material culture, Chinese theater, the history of books and of reading, and Sino-Japanese cultural exchange. She is currently turning her dissertation, “Reading Games in Early Modern China,” into a book project. It explores the critical potentials of games in early modern China, particularly how they inspired authors and readers to creatively engage with the affordances of literature and develop a distinct epistemological perspective for understanding and navigating reality. In so doing, the project seeks a transhistorical research method to shed new light on the manifestation and significance of a pre-digital ludic age in China.
Chen is in the early stages of a second project that explores the notion of “virtual reality” in early modern China. With a particular focus on how magic is conjured up through literature, it aims to reconsider the conception of huan (lit. illusion) as related to fictionality, immersivity, and spectator/readerly participation. Her other ongoing projects include the interplay between games (such as board games and guessing games) and Chinese theater, vernacular discourses on gambling, and the history of miniature books in China. Previously trained in museum studies, she is also eager to work with colleagues and students to integrate academic knowledge into exhibitions and other public-facing events.
Chen received her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2023. Her research has been supported by the Japan Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago. She is now a junior fellow of the Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School.