Visiting Assistant Professor in Premodern Chinese Literature

Fall 2023 Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:00-3:00 and by appointment

Canaan Morse specializes in the popular fiction and performance literatures of China’s late imperial/early modern period (1368-1911). Once a performer of the traditional art form known as xiangsheng 相聲 (“cross-talk,” stylized comic dialogue) in Beijing, Canaan brings a deep engagement with folklore and oral narrative studies to his research on the intersection of performance and print during the commercial publishing boom of the Ming dynasty. His current book project, Reading as Reliving: Tradition and Transmediality in Vernacular Chinese Fiction, explores how vernacular prose and prosimetric fiction of the time emulated the receptive context of performance in print. The book integrates close analyses of ancient texts with case studies drawn from his own fieldwork of living storytelling traditions in northeast China. One such case study is currently under review as an article, entitled The Multimedia Pingshu Romance of the Three Kingdoms and its Republican-Era Ancestry. Canaan has also spoken on the literary appropriation of oral formulae in Ming chantefable texts and the adaptation of Story of the Stone into long-form storytelling performance at conferences in Cambridge, Boston, and Taipei. His research has received support from the Fulbright Foundation, the Harvard Fairbanks Center, and the Walter K. Sheldon Memorial Fellowship. 


In addition, Canaan is also a prizewinning translator of contemporary Chinese literature. His translation of Ge Fei’s novel The Invisibility Cloak (NYRB Classics Series) won the Susan Sontag Prize for Translation, while his translation of Ge’s landmark novel Peach Blossom Paradise was a Finalist for a 2021 National Book Award. His translations of Chinese stories and poems by Yang Xiaobin, Cao Kou, and others have appeared in major journals worldwide, and he maintains strong ties to China’s writing community.