Dora Zhang

Associate Professor

My research interests have focused on Anglo-American and European modernist fiction, literature and philosophy, novel theory, affect theory, visual culture, and aesthetics. More recently, my worked has also turned to contemporary literature, especially Asian American and Asian diasporic literature.

My first book, Strange Likeness: Description and the Modernist Novel, appeared in 2020 from the University of Chicago Press as part of the "Thinking Literature" series. It turns to some experiments of modernist form - by James, Proust, and, most centrally, Woolf - in order to reinvigorate our thinking about the ubiquitous but still under-theoreized category of novelistic description. I have also written on topics including the role of atmospheres in everyday life, Roland Barthes's travels in China, and the role of the detail in fictions that withhold some piece of social information, such as a character's gender or race.

My new book project is on the promises and perils of being a type in contemporary (largely U.S.) fiction. I am also editing a new annotated edition of Woolf's A Room of One’s Own, with an introduction, for the Norton Library.


Ph.D., Comparative Literature, Princeton University 

B.A., Philosophy, University of Toronto.


Selected Publications

Articles and Book Chapters

"The Mark of the Detail: Universalism, Type, Difference," MLQ, 2023

"In Search of Lost Weather," Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, ed. Katherine Elkins (“Oxford Studies in Philosophy and Literature” series, Oxford University Press, 2022)

"Stream of Consciousness," Oxford Handbook of Virginia Woolf (Oxford University Press, 2021).

"Staying Alive" (on Ling Ma's Severance), Post 45 Contemporaries, October 2020

Strange Likeness: Description and the Modernist Novel (University of Chicago Press, 2020).

"Notes on Atmosphere," Qui Parle 27:1 (2018), 121 - 155. 

"Modernist Setting," co-authored introduction to cluster on "Setting" co-edited with Hannah Freed-Thall, Modernism/modernity Print Plus, March 2018

"Naming the Indescribable: James, Russell, Woolf and the Limits of Description," New Literary History 45.1 (Winter 2014), 51-70. Winner of the 2013 Ralph Cohen Prize.

"A Lens for an Eye: Photography and Proust," Representations 118 (Spring 2012), 103-125.

Other Writing

"Is There a Future for Literary Studies?" Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2022

"Always Already Translated" Public Books, August 2016

"Love, Loot, and Lit" The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2015

"Melancholy Surprise: Marcel Proust's Collected Poems" Los Angeles Review of Books, July 2013

"The Sideways Gaze: Roland Barthes's Travels in China" Los Angeles Review of Books, June 2012 (translated into German and reprinted in Merkur)

"Small Talk" The Point, 2012 (translated into French and reprinted in Nouveau Projet)

Other Media

Interview about atmospheres, How to Read podcast

Interview about Strange LikenessNew Books Network podcast

Interview about my Comparative Literature course, "The Good Life," Think About It podcast


Wheeler Hall, room 437

Classes Taught