Hsuan L. Hsu

Hsuan L. Hsu is a professor of English at the University of California, Davis. His recent publications include Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain's Asia and Comparative Racialization (NYU, 2015) and The Smell of Risk: Environmental Disparities and Olfactory Aesthetics (NYU, 2020).


Intransitive Encounter: Sino-U.S. Literatures and the Limits of Exchange by Nan Z. Da

A Chinese translation of “Rip Van Winkle.” A speech by Ralph Waldo Emerson honoring the Burlingame-Seward treaty. A translation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” inscribed on a Mandarin fan. The autobiography and poetry of Yale’s first Chinese graduate, who founded a school for Chinese exchange students in Hartford. Judging by the stature of the figures and institutions involved, we might expect that the archive of nineteenth-century literary encounters between China and the United States would have generated lasting networks of influence.

Smelling Setting

In Terror from the Air, Peter Sloterdijk characterizes Western modernity as a series of experiments with “air conditioning.”[1] Sloterdijk’s key example, the use of gas weapons in World War I, illustrates the two senses of his term: by engineering breathable atmospheres and moving them around, humans condition the air that in turn conditions human embodiment, cognition, and affect. Sloterdijk argues that, over the last century, the wartime production of fatal atmospheres was reintroduced in more mundane forms across an increasingly fragmented field of everyday spaces.