Research Estuaries

The Department faculty promote cross-pollination in research by organizing faculty members into theme- or expertise-based groups that we call research estuaries. An estuary is a metaphor of what we envisage to do—develop an interdisciplinary and transregional research profile, while maintaining our traditional disciplinary research agenda. This approach extends to graduate students as well as undergrduate student. We see a study of East Asia, teaching about it, and training our students in East Asia's languages, represent work in an estuary as it naturally interacts and contributes to a large sea of knowledge. On an individual level, we envision that our faculty develop research themes and collaborative projects by working with other scholars and graduate students who share the same interests, including those outside of the Department. Like any estuary, with its own peculiar ecosystem and contributions it makes to the larger ecological system, we believe these efforts will produce new understandings on and perspectives in many cultural products of East Asia.

Each estuary will hold reading groups, informal research talks, and workshops, to promote connections with other scholars in the Department and in outside units.

An estuary is a transition ecosystem where East Asia meets, as it were, the rest of the world and represents intercultural communication.


Visuality & Textuality

This estuary focuses on a study of visual and textual objects and their interactions in a variety of cultural products of East Asia, such as literature and film.

Exley, Qian, Shin.

Historical Memory

The focal area of historical memory, embedded in all types of cultural products (e.g., literature, drama, film), can illuminate on how people deconstruct and reconstruct particular narratives about historical periods or events. The area is therefore comparative in nature that includes literature and cultural expression across linguistic, national, and disciplinary boundaries.

Sun, Oyler, Qian, Exley.


Music and stage performance, drama, and film are some of the areas this research area focuses on. Inherently interdisciplinary, it examines how theories and practices of performance informs our understanding of East Asia.

Oyler, Exley, Qian.


Diachronic and synchronic analysis of East Asian languages, pragmatics, and second language acquisition (SLA). Research in SLA can provide crucial knowledge about how to teach language (esp. East Asian languages) more efficiently.

Exley, Xu, Kim, Nara, Luft.

Medical & Digital Humanities

This research estuary is focused on ways a wide range of humanities perspectives can shed light on the theory and practice of medicine, ethical decision making, anthropology, and history. It often makes increasing use of digital data that adds a new dimension to humanities research. Discourses on medicine in literature, for example, can provide perspectives on the relationship between people and sciences and medicine.

Exley, Oyler, Nara


Translation is not a simple method of knowledge transfer but is a lens to examine the process in which cultural practices, texts, and ideas are interpreted and practiced in another culture. In the estuary where East Asia interacts with the world, an understanding of translation, including its theory, description, and practice, has a valuable role in our understanding of East Asia.

Nara, Exley, Sun.


Individual Research Agenda

Charles Exley

Visual/textual interaction, performance, the use of genre in Asia, translation, medicine and humanistic discourse, detective fiction, and pedagogy of East Asian languages.

Mi-Hyun Kim

Historical consonantal phonology of Korean, phonological development of Korean language learners.

Stephen Luft

Japanese language pedagogy and instruction in pragmatics.

Hiroshi Nara

Japanese modernity in literature and visual media, Japanese interwar intellectual history, translation and translation studies, aesthetics, medicine (etiology), verbal aspect, and Japanese language pedagogy.

Elizabeth Oyler

Performing arts of medieval Japan, historical memory and cultural identity. 

Yi Xu

Chinese as a Second or Foreign Language, Chinese functional grammar and corpus linguistics, character learning, and technology-assisted language learning.          

Cecile Sun

Zhuangzi and comparative study of the Chinese and the Western modes of discourse in the Analects and Plato's Symposium.

Kun Qian

Evolution of Chinese economic discourse in the twentieth century, imperial studies, modern literature, film.