KAREN L. THORNBER
Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Victor and William Fung Director, Harvard University Asia Center
Karen L. Thornber is Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. She is also Victor and William Fung Director of the Harvard University Asia Center and Chair of the Harvard Asia Center Council. Thornber earned her A.B. from Princeton, with a major in Comparative Literature and three minors (Japanese Language and Literature, East Asian Studies, and French Language and Literature); and her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard in 2006, with a specialization in Japanese literature in East Asian and global perspective. Her research and teaching focus on world literatures and the literatures and cultures of East Asia (Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan), as well as the literatures and cultures of the Indian Ocean Rim (Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia). Having conducted extensive fieldwork in vernacular archives across East Asia, Professor Thornber works in more than a dozen European, East Asian, and South Asian languages.
She is author of two multiple international award-winning scholarly monographs – Empire of Texts in Motion: Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese Transculturations of Japanese Literature (Harvard 2009) and Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (Michigan 2012) – and is co-editor of a special issue of the journal Literature and Medicine on World Literature and Health; a special issue of the journal Humanities on Global Indigeneities and Environment, which was also published as a separate book; and a book titled The Poetics of Aging in the Japanese Narrative Arts. In the last decade, she has published more than 70 articles and book chapters on comparative and world literature, Japanese literature and culture, East Asian literatures and cultures, the literatures and cultures of the Indian Ocean Rim, diaspora, gender, indigeneities, postcolonialism, transculturation (adaptation, translation, intertextuality), trauma, and the environmental humanities and medical and health humanities.
In addition, Professor Thornber is the award-winning translator of Japanese writer Tōge Sankichi’s Poems of the Atomic Bomb. Professor Thornber has just finished her most recent book, titled Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care, which draws on literature from 20 languages and more than four dozen nations, across six continents. Current projects include books on gender and leadership in Asia and on culture, technology, and inequality as well as a co-edited special issue of the journal World Literature on trans-Asian literatures and cultures.
KAREN L. THORNBER