Dr Keru CaiBack to People

Department: Oriental Studies
Academic position: Fellowship by Examination in Oriental Studies


I received my Bachelor of Arts in English at Harvard University, followed by a Master of Studies in English Literature at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where I held a Von Clemm Fellowship. I then received a Master of Arts in Regional Studies: East Asia at Harvard University, and finally a Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a Mellon-Chancellor’s Fellow.  In fall 2022 I will join the Pennsylvania State University as Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Comparative Literature.


I study modern Chinese literary appropriations from Russian, English, and French language texts. My first book (manuscript in progress), From Russia, with Squalor: Poverty in Modern Chinese Realism, shows that modern Chinese realist writers frequently turned to the topic of material poverty to convey their sense of China’s alleged textual poverty and national weakness. Comparing Chinese fiction about poverty to Russian intertexts by Gogol, Andreev, Turgenev, and others, I show how Chinese writers drew and innovated upon thematic and formal elements to invent a new, syncretic realism. My other current projects include research on the afterlives of Maxim Gorky in China, the Russian antecedents of early twentieth-century Chinese “native-soil” literature, and the fiction of Eileen Chang.


“The Temporality of Poverty: Realism in Lao She’s Camel Xiangzi,” in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (Spring 2020).

“Looking, Reading, and Intertextuality in Ding Ling’s ‘Shafei nüshi de riji,’” in PRISM: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (Fall 2020).

“Lu Xun’s Russian Intertexts and the Dialectics of Optimism and Pessimism” (forthcoming in edited volume Lu Xun and World Literature, HKUP)

“The Proximity Effect: Agency and Isolation in Eileen Chang’s ‘Love in a Fallen City'” (forthcoming in Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies, March 2022)

“The Spatiality of Poverty in Modern Chinese Realism” (forthcoming in Comparative Literature, September 2023)

“Maxim Gorky in China, Before Canonization: 1920s Commentary and Shen Congwen’s ‘Three Men and One Woman,’” in CLEAR: Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, and Reviews (forthcoming, 2022)