Sabina Knight 桑稟華

Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature, Program in World Literatures

Sabina Knight

Contact & Office Hours

Fall 2020
Tuesday and Thursday, 3–4 p.m.
And by appointment.

Pierce Hall 202



Ph.D., M.A., University of Wisconsin, Madison

M.A., University of California, Berkeley

B.A., University of Wisconsin, Madison


Sabina Knight (桑稟華) seeks to bring Chinese literatures to broader audiences. Her Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction (2012) tells the story of literary culture’s key role in the development and resilience of Chinese social and political institutions. From ancient historical records through the region’s modernization and globalization, the book embraces traditional Chinese understandings of literature as encompassing history and philosophy as well as poetry and poetics, storytelling, drama and the novel. Her earlier book, The Heart of Time (2006), explores how narrative structures, representations of time, and ideas of determinism and moral responsibility changed over the 20th century.

Knight also works in the cross-cultural medical humanities. Working in Chinese, Russian, French and English, she has spoken or published on breast cancer, emotions, disability, aging and well-being. This work builds on 10 years’ participation in a faculty seminar sponsored by Harvard’s departments of medical anthropology and social medicine. Knight continues as a research associate at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. She also serves on the steering committee of the Five College Culture, Health and Sciences (CHS) Program.

Knight has translated stories, essays, classical poetry and modern prose. She has published essays in Chinese on Chinese-English literary translation, and she has spoken widely on the topic in China, Europe and the United States. Her hope that literary culture may be relevant to contemporary questions of law, public policy and healthcare has grown since 2011 when she began as a fellow in the Public Intellectuals Program (PIP) of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (NCUSCR).

In 2007, Knight was awarded Smith’s Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching.

Selected Publications and Media

Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2012).
—German: Die chinesische Literatur: Eine Einführung, translated by Martina Hasse (Reclam, 2016).
—Bilingual Simplified Chinese-English (heavily censored):《中国文学》Chinese Literature, translated by Li Yongyi 李永毅. (Nanjing: Yilin Press 译林出版社, 2016).
—Traditional Chinese: 《中國文學》 Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction, translated by Li Yongyi 李永毅. (Hong Kong: Oxford UP [China] Limited, 2018).

The Heart of Time: Moral Agency in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction (Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard University Press, 2006).

Interview with Tom Ashbrook on NPR's "On Point"

Interview with Jeffrey Wasserstrom for the Los Angeles Review of Books

Mo Yan’s Delicate Balancing Act.The National Interest 124 (March/April 2013): 69-80.

Writing Chinese Literary History: A Tweet for Sore Eyes.” Chinese Literature Today 3.1&2 (2013): 165-175. 

Cancer’s Revelations: Malignancies and Therapies in a Recent Chinese Novel,” Literature and Medicine 28.2 (2009): 351-70.

“Scar Literature and the Memory of Trauma.” The Columbia Companion to Modern Chinese Literature. Ed. Kirk Denton. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. 293-306.

“解读中美文化交流中的差异” (Decoding Disparities in China-U.S. Cultural Exchanges).
《翻译家的对话 III 》 (Translators’ Dialogue III). Ed. 中国作家协会外联部 (Chinese Writers Association International Liaison Department). Beijing: Chinese Writers’ Press, 2015, 191-196.