Kun Qian

  • Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Film; Film and Media Studies
  • Director of Graduate Studies
  • • Estuary: Visuality & Textuality, Historical Memory, Imperial Thinking, Performance, Economic Thought

Office Hours

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., East Asian Literature, Cornell University
  • M.A., Asian Studies, Cornell University
  • M.S., Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • B.A., Economics, Peking University, China

Representative Publications


  • The Imperial-Time-Order: Literature, Intellectual History, and China's Road to Empire (Brill, 2016).
  • 《从悲剧英雄到黑帮罪犯:香港黑帮电影及其城市寓言》(From Tragic Heroes to Criminals: Gangster Film and its Allegory of Hong Kong), Academic Journal of Guizhou University, 2017 (6), 11-19.
  • “Reluctant Transcendence: AIDS and the Catastrophic Condition in Gu Changwei’s Film Love for Life,” in Discourse of Disease: Writing Illness, the Mind and the Body in Modern China, ed. Howard Choy, 203-230. (Brill, 2016).
  • Tianxia Revisited: Family and Empire on the Television Screen,” in Chinese Television in the Twenty-First Century: Entertaining the Nation (Routledge Contemporary China Series), eds. Geng Song and Ruoyun Bai, 175–191. (Routledge, 2014).
  • “Gendering National Imagination: Heroines and the Return of the Foundational Family in Shanghai during the War of Resistance to Japan,” Frontiers of Literary Studies in China, January 2014.
  • 后国家和前国家时代的纪念与忘却——近年中文电影对抗日战争的描绘 (Remembering and Forgetting in the Postnational and Pre-national Era: Recent Chinese Films on the War of Resistance to Japan), Wenhua yanjiu 文化研究 (Culture Studies), January 2014.
  • 表演帝国:五六十年代的历史剧 (Staging Empire: Historical Plays in Mao’s China), Xin Wenxue pinglun 新文学评论 (Modern Chinese Literature Criticism), 2013, Vol. 2, 160-168.
  • “Tracing Desire: Cell Phone and the Self-Reflexivity of Contemporary Chinese Media,” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Resource Center, May 2011. Available online here.
  • “Pandora’s Box: Time-Image in A Chinese Odyssey and the Becoming of Chinese Cinema,” Asian Cinema, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2011): 308-328.
  • “Love or Hate: The First Emperor on Screen,” Asian Cinema, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2009): 39-67.
  • "The Imperial-Time Regime: The Chinese Empire in the Age of Globalization," Journal of the Southwest Conference on Asian Studies, Volume 6, 2008, 132-153.



  • Served as Assistant Director for an oral-history based documentary film The Revolution They Remember on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, commissioned by the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh. 



Research Interests

I came to the United States to study economics and finance. Like many young people, I was following my parents’ expectations, intending to become a financial expert. Yet a deeply ingrained love for literature and culture eventually drew me to the field of modern Chinese literature and film. I am most interested in the conjunction of history and literature, taking literary/visual text as a creative site of contested ideologies and discourses, historical consciousness and unconscious, and individual subjectivity and collective agency. In my first book project, Imperial-Time-Order, I tried to discern a paradigmatic pattern of historical thinking beneath the symptomatic manifestations of literature in different time periods. It deals with the ways modern writers and producers have represented pre-modern Chinese empires. Through close readings of the texts in relation to historical contexts, I suggest that revolutionary change and historical continuity have both shaped the imaginations of Chinese Empire, and a deeply-rooted historical way of thinking has helped define reality. My current research focuses on the intersection between literature and economic thought in modern China. In the field of media studies, I am drawn to the relationship between of visuality and identity, paying special attention to visual representations of trauma, memory, and historical consciousness.