Karen Thornber

Karen Thornber

Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature
Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Acting Director, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies
Karen Thornber

Research Interests

Environmental and medical humanities. World literature and the literatures and cultures of East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan), as well as the Indian Ocean Rim. Textual production, circulation, consumption, and reconfiguration as key elements of wider cultural and planetary consciousness. Transculturation, postcolonialism, ecocriticism, trauma, literature, medicine/global health, and global indigeneities.

Related Publications

Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (University of Michigan Press, 2012)

Humanities 4:1 (2016) online publication, Guest Editor of Special Issue on Global Indigeneities and the Environment. Co-Editor Tom Havens.

"Environmental Consciousness and China," in Michael Szonyi, ed., Harvard Talks China, 8 manuscript pp.

"Wolf Totem and Nature Writing," in David Wang et al., eds., A New Literary History of Modern China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017), 8 manuscript pp.

"Climate Change and Changing World Literature," in Stephanie LeMenager et al., eds., Teaching Climate Change in Literary and Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge, 2016), 265-71.

"Humanistic Environmental Studies and (Global) Indigeneities," Humanities 5:1 (2016), 16 manuscript pp.

"Ecocriticisms in East Asia and Beyond: Pasts, Presents, Futures," Frontiers of Literary Theory 15 (Wenxue lilun qianyan, 2016), 25 manuscript pp. (Trans. Wang Pei)

"Care, Vulnerability, Resilience: Ecologies of HIV/AIDS in Chinese Literature," in Carlos Rojas and Andrea Bachner, eds., Oxford Handbook of Modern Chinese Literatures (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 22 manuscript pp.

"Environments of Early Chinese and Japanese Literatures," in Louise Westling, ed., The Cambridge Global History of Literature and the Environment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 20 manuscript pp.

"Ishimure Michiko and Global Ecocriticism," in Bruce Allen and Yuki Masami, eds., Sea of Fire: Ishimure Michiko's Writing in Ecocritical Perspective (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2015), 123-42.

  • Reprinted in The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus 14:13, 5 (July 1, 2016).

"Kuawenhua liudong wangluo yu quanqiuxing bijiao: Yazhou, Feizhou, Dayangzhou he Meizhou wenxuezhong de renlei zhongxinzhuyi shengtaiguan he 'shengtai bendu jumin'" (Transcultural Networks and Global Comparison: Anthropocentric Ecologies and the 'Ecological Native' in Literature from Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas)," in Peng Hsiao-yen, ed., Fanyi yu kuawenhua liudong: zhishi jiangou, wenben yu wenti de chuanbo (Translation and Transcultural Movement: Knowledge Construction and the Transmission of Texts and Literary Style) (Taipei: Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, 2015), 301-38. (Chinese translation by Miya Xie)

"Paradoxes of Conservation and Comparison: Taiwan, Environmental Crises, and World Literatures," in Shu-mei Shih and Ping-hui Liao, eds., Comparatizing Taiwan (New York: Routledge, 2015), 88-110.

"Literature, Asia, and the Anthropocene: Possibilities for Asian Studies and the Environmental Humanities," Journal of Asian Studies 73:4 (November 2014), 989-1000.

"Japanese Literature and International Environmental Crises," About Japan: A Teacher's Resource (Japan Society) , 18 manuscript pp. (October 2014)

"Chinese Literary Landscapes of SARS and HIV/AIDS: On Hubris and Vulnerability," Forum for World Literature Studies 6:3 (September 2014), 430-42.

"Anthropocentric Ecologies and the 'Ecological Native' in Native American, M─üori, and Aboriginal Taiwanese Literatures," Komparatistik 11 (2014), 15-24.

"Chinese Literature and Environmental Crises: Plundering Borderlands North and South," in Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan, and Vidya Sarveswaran, eds., Ecoambiguity, Community, and Development: Toward a Politicized Ecocriticism (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2014), 1-11.

"Literature and the Environment: Local Approaches to Ecocriticism," in Paul G. Harris and Graeme Lang, eds., Routledge Handbook of Environment and Society in Asia (New York: Routledge, 2014), 53-67.

"Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures: Uncertain Presents and Futures," in Louise Westling, ed., Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 198-211.

"Overwhelming Disease and Nature: New Perspectives on Ariyoshi Sawako and Amitav Ghosh," Poetica 80 (2013), 99-115.

"Afterword: Ecocritical and Literary Futures," in Simon Estok and Won-Chung Kim, eds., East Asian Ecocriticisms: A Critical Reader (New York: Macmillan, 2013), 229-50.

"Japanese Literature and Environmental Crises," in Brett Walker et al., eds., Japan at Nature's Edge: The Environmental Origins of a Global Power (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2013), 207-21.

"Nature, Humanity, and Uncertain Futures: East Asian Literatures and Environmental Degradation," in Sung-Won Cho, ed., Expanding the Frontiers of Comparative Literature: A Return to the Transnational Tradition (Seoul: Chung-Ang University Press, 2013), 236-47.

"Ishimure Michiko, Literature, and Environmental Ambiguity," Asia-Pacific Journal (June 2012), online publication, 35 pp.

"Acquiescing to Environmental Degradation: Literary Dynamics of Resignation," Pacific Coast Philology 47 (2012) (Special Issue on Environmental Humanities), 210-31.

"Green Paradoxes: Literature and Environmental Crises in Korea, China, and Japan," Bulletin of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanjing University, China (2012), 44 pp.

"Literature and Environment" (with Lawrence Buell [Harvard] and Ursula Heise [Stanford]), Annual Review of Environment and Resources 36 (2011), 417-40.

"Degendering Ecodegradation and Rethinking Ecofeminisms in the Writing of Kurihara Sadako, Sakaki Nanao, and Ishimure Michiko," in Paul Schalow and Janet Walker, eds., Rethinking Gender in the Postgender Era (PAJLS 11) (West Lafayette, IN: Association for Japanese Literary Studies, 2010), 296-318.

"Ecological Urbanism and East Asian Literatures," in Mohsen Mostafavi, ed., Ecological Urbanism (Baden, Switzerland: Lars M├╝ller Publishers, 2010), 530-33. (Translated into Spanish as Urbanismo Ecológico. Planned translations into Chinese and Japanese; planned adaptations for new media).

"Ecocriticism and Japanese Literature of the Avant Garde," International Literary Quarterly 8 (August 2009), e-publication, 21 pp., http://www.interlitq.org/issue8/karen_thornber/job.php

Faculty Department

Comparative Literature



Julie Story (617) 496-6244

Contact Information


Research Areas

Alphabetical by Last Name