Professor Nathan Vedal's research interests include early modern Chinese cultural and intellectual history, with a particular focus on the history of knowledge production and the history of the book.
Nathan Vedal is broadly interested in the intellectual, cultural, and literary history of late imperial China between roughly the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. He employs approaches from book history and history of science/humanities to his research on the organization and circulation of knowledge in China, as well as transnational exchange of books and information across East Asia.
Professor Vedal is in the final stages of completing a book manuscript on the history of philology and the formation of scholarly disciplines in China from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. He demonstrates how the boundaries surrounding the field of language study shifted according to contemporary intellectual trends. A second project looks at how Chinese scholars and literary figures managed information in a period of substantially increased textual production beginning from the sixteenth century. Specifically, he examines the concrete practices underlying how scholars compiled reference works, such as encyclopedias, and how writers put them to use. He teaches a graduate seminar on theories of reading in East Asian history, which investigates issues related to this project but ties to broader concerns in the history of the book, as well.
Last year Professor Vedal had an article related to material from his first book project, titled “New Scripts for All Sounds: Cosmology and Universal Phonetic Notation Systems in Late Imperial China,” published in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. He has another article that bridges the first and second book projects, titled “From Tradition to Community: The Rise of Contemporary Knowledge in Late Imperial China,” forthcoming in the Journal of Asian Studies. A chapter Professor Vedal wrote on Chinese lexicographic practices has also just come out in the Cambridge World History of Lexicography.