Nicholas Y. H. Wong

Nic Wong is a literary historian of Southeast Asian Chinese writing. Nic holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Comparative Literature and Society from Columbia University in the City of New York. At the Society of Fellows, he will deepen his study of global networks of commodities and industries as they transact the writing of literary history. His current book project examines the impact of tin and rubber on the Malay Peninsula and the aesthetic forms of minority relations and differences they generate in Chinese-language writing. In short, he is writing a materialist history of Mahua literature and intellectual culture. During his Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship at the National Library Singapore in 2018, he did archival research into the Nanyang (or Southeast Asian) historian Hsu Yun-Tsiao’s unpublished diaries, written in classical Chinese in Patani, Siam during the 1930s. Topics he has written on include the Mahua writer Ng Kim Chew’s literary ties with the Chinese philologist-rebel Zhang Taiyan (for which he received a best paper prize at the 2017 Association of Asian Studies conference); modernist poetry and translation in Mahua literature (co-written with a friend); toys and a Hong Kong theory of the child. His essays have appeared in CLEAR (Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews), Chapters on Asia, and Full Stop Quarterly. In Spring 2021, he will teach a course with the department of Comparative Literature, titled “Fiction and Film in Contemporary Chinese Societies,” which examines “contemporary Chinese societies” through the postwar landscape of global capitalism and decolonization.

Nic also translates fiction, writes poetry and review essays under his pen name Zhou Sivan. His three poetry chapbooks largely concern the inscription of human desire and movement across natural surfaces. Zero Copula (Delete Press, 2015) thinks about breath-lines within an adapted sonnet form. Sea Hypocrisy (co-published by DoubleCross Press and Projective Industries, 2016) responds to state policies and media reports on migrants and refugees. The Geometry of Trees (Sputnik & Fizzle, forthcoming) considers trees and humans in medieval and contemporary literary settings. He likes to translate works in which protagonists cross real or imagined borders and transform how we think about genres and belonging. They include the Hui Chinese writer Zhang Chengzhi’s speech in Palestine; the Hong Kong writer A Leng’s Cantonese-Mandarin speculative fiction; a Chinese cultural critic’s reflections on the 1980s; a Taiwanese writer’s short story about Cuba. He values collaborative work and minor forms and practices such as small press publishing. Some of the above-mentioned works can be found in journals such as Almost Island, Asian American Writers’ Workshop (The Margins and Transpacific Literary Project), Asymptote, Chicago Review, Kisah Journal, and Lana Turner.


Talks and Lectures (Selected):

Sep 2019. “Rights Talk in Hong Kong Cinema.” The University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus in Hong Kong

Sep 2020. “Creolizing Desire in Sino-Malay Translations: Their Colonial, Diasporic, National, and International Contexts.” AAS-in-Asia, Kobe

Oct 2020. “Manufacturing Childhood in Hong Kong: Literature in the Kingdom of Plastic Toys.” Center for the Study of Globalization and Cultures, HKU

Dec 2020. “Ritual Time, Secular Democracy: On Literary Depictions of Chinese and Indian Popular Religions in Malaysia.” Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, HKU

Dec 2020. “Vulgar Translations, Jurisprudence, and Braille Affects.” University of Malaya