Karen Thornber, PhD

Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Karen Thornber is professor and chair of comparative literature at Harvard University; she is also chair of regional studies East Asia and a professor in Harvard's Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Thornber's research and teaching focus on world literature, East Asian literatures, the literatures of the Indian Ocean Rim, post-colonialism, diaspora, trauma, environmental humanities, and medical humanities. A 2006 Harvard PhD, her books include Empire of Texts in Motion: Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese Transculturations of Japanese Literature (Harvard University Asia Center, 2009) and Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (University of Michigan Press, 2012), both of which were awarded multiple international prizes. She is the author of over fifty articles/chapters as well as of an award-winning translation of Japanese poetry; Thornber is additionally guest editor of a special issue of the journal Literature and Medicine on world literature and health. Working in over a dozen languages (six European and eight Asian), Thornber is currently writing two books: Global World Literature and Health and Networking Literatures. She has just started learning Arabic.


  • PhD Harvard University