Berkeley English Faculty

Dora Zhang

Dora Zhang

Associate Professor

Wheeler Hall, room 442

Professional Statement

My research interests focus on Anglo-American and European modernist fiction, literature and philosophy, novel theory, affect theory, visual culture, aesthetics, and, more recently, ecocriticism. I received my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and my B.A. in philosophy from the University of Toronto. At Berkeley I hold a joint appointment in the departments of English and Comparative 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. I have also written on topics including Proust and photography, Woolf and the philosophy of language, the role of atmospheres in everyday life, and Roland Barthes's travels in China. My work has appeared in RepresentationsNew Literary History (where my article "Naming the Indescribable" won the 2013 Ralph Cohen Prize), Modernism/modernity Print Plus, Qui Parle, and Post45 Contemporaries, as well as Public Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. At the heart of my work is an abiding concern with histories of aesthetic forms and the roles these play in broader histories of knowledge.

Strange Likeness: Description and the Modernist Novel
Strange Likeness: Description and the Modernist Novel

The modern novel, so the story goes, thinks poorly of mere description—what Virginia Woolf called “that ugly, that clumsy, that incongruous tool.” As a result, critics have largely neglected description as a feature of novelistic innovation during th....(read more)

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered

"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.

Public Writing

"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)

English Department Classes