Wiebke Denecke

Associate Professor of East Asian Literatures & Comparative Literature Convener of Chinese Literature Convener of Comparative Literature Affiliated with Classical Studies

Wiebke Denecke
  • Title Associate Professor of East Asian Literatures & Comparative Literature
    Convener of Chinese Literature
    Convener of Comparative Literature
    Affiliated with Classical Studies
  • Office STH 638
  • Education BA, George August University, Göttingen (Germany)
    MA, George August University, Göttingen (Germany)
    PhD, Harvard University

Office Hours Spring 2018: Tuesday 12:30-2:00pm, Thursdays 2:00-3:30pm and by appointment.

Wiebke Denecke (魏樸和) studied Medicine, Sinology, Japanology, and Greco-Roman philosophy in her native Germany, in Hungary, Norway, Dalian, Taipei, and Tokyo and received her BA and MA from the University of Göttingen and her PhD from Harvard University. Her research and teaching encompasses the classical literatures of China and Japan (and more recently Korea), comparative studies of East Asia and the premodern world, and world literature.

She is interested in fundamental questions involving comparisons of early thought traditions of philosophy, persuasion, and rhetoric; poetry and poetics; court cultures; the development of literary traditions in multiliterate environments; literature, cross-cultural encounters, and diplomacy; and the creative recapturing of ancient East Asian traditions in the global present.

Her book The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi (Harvard University Press, Asia Center, 2011) argues that the desire for a Chinese equivalent for Western philosophy has warped our understanding of early Chinese thought, and shows how texts like the Confucian Analects or the Laozi can instead be read as part of a distinctive Chinese genre of “Masters Literature.” Her second book, Classical World Literatures: Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons (Oxford University Press, 2014), examines the development of younger literatures vis-à-vis older, authoritative “reference cultures” by comparing the way early Japanese authors wrote their texts through and against Chinese literary precedents to the way Latin authors appropriated Greek literary precedents.

Denecke is broadly interested in the development of concepts of “Literature” (文学) in East Asia, and her collaborative publications on this topic invite aim to rediscover the world of premodern “Letters” (文) as a realm of cultural commonalities between China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, in this current moment, when national ideologies and the aftermath of 20th century atrocities overshadow the distinctive shared East Asian cultural heritage. To this effect she published The Concept of “Letters” and “Literature” in Japan (日本における文とブンガク Nihon ni okeru bun to bungaku) (with Kōno Kimiko; Tokyo: Benseisha, 2013), and two of three planned volumes of A New History of Japanese “Letterature”(日本「文」学史 Nihon “bun”gakushi) (with Kōno Kimiko, Shinkawa Tokio, and Jinno Hidenori; Benseisha, 2015-). She is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature. 1200 BCE-900 CE (with Wai-yee Li and Xiaofei Tian. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Denecke is one of the editors of The Norton Anthology of World Literature and The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. With Zhang Longxi she is curating the book series East Asian Comparative Literature and Culture  (Leiden: Brill).

Denecke has received grants from the Mellon Foundation, the ACLS, German Merit Scholarship Foundation, the DAAD, and the Japan Foundation. Before coming to BU she taught at Barnard College/Columbia University. She was a member of the Society of Fellows at Columbia University; a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; and a visiting professor at Dōshisha University. She most recently received a “New Directions” Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

She is currently working on projects on early Japanese literature’s relationship to Korea, on conceptual comparative approaches to East Asia’s Sinographic Sphere, and on the global, comparative study of human cultural memory.




LC 250                      Masterpieces of Classical Chinese Literature
LC 280/ RN361      The Chinese Classics in Today’s World
LC/LJ/LK 314         Classical Chinese for Students of East Asia
LC 316                      Topics in Classical Chinese
LC 470                      China’s Cosmopolitan Tang Empire


LJ 250                       Masterpieces of Japanese Literature
LJ 316                       Classical Japanese
LC/LJ/LK 314        Classical Chinese for Students of East Asia
LJ                              Walking the Streets of Kyoto: Japan’s Literary Capital
LJ 451                       Living Heian Japan

Korea (see also under East Asia)

LC/LJ/LK 314         Classical Chinese for Students of East Asia

East Asia and comparative courses

XL 224                      Introduction to Comparative Literature: East     Asia
LC/LJ/LK/LZ/XL 260   Gateway to Asian Cultures
LC/LK/XL 470/LJ 451  Immortals, Drop-outs, Courtiers in East Asian Literature
LC/LK/XL 470/LJ 451 Trauma, Memory, Literature East and West


Recent Articles about Wiebke Denecke’s work:

“A New Approach to Understanding Classical Literary Cultures: Professor Denecke publishes The Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature”

“Professor Denecke Publishes First Volume of a Revisionary History of Japanese Literature: a New History of Japanese “Letterature”

“Reclaiming a Common Language: How a New Literary History Could Help Salve Wounds in Asia.” Interview on Mellon New Directions Fellowship

“A New Take on World Literature: Editor Widens Net to Capture Voices from around the World.” Interview about Norton Anthology of World Literature (2012)

“Chinese philosophy meets Korean Wave: Professor Wiebke Denecke Featured in a Korean TV Series on Ancient China’s Greatest Thinkers”

Recent books:

asia_日本における文とブンガク_jacket12-448x636 Classical-World-Literatures-429x636 COVER-Nihon-bungakushi-1-433x636 MastersLit Norton1 Norton-Anthology OH-of-ClassChinLit-SMALL PIX-Norton-Anthology-of-Western-Literature-2014-e1393510167285-89x150 Volume2-e1499273395949-477x636Volume C


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