A professor of Chinese literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, Wilt Idema publishes extensively on Chinese literature of the last four imperial dynasties. The various forms of marginal literature in the Chinese tradition, such as fictional literature, vernacular literature, and writings by women, are the main focus of his research.
While a Radcliffe fellow, Idema will work on a general survey of poetry, prose, drama, and fiction writing by Chinese women throughout the two-thousand-year imperial period. Because traditional Chinese poetics reads literature as the author’s reaction to a specific life experience, Idema’s survey will present all writings in a continuous narrative that will include extensive quotation of (auto)biographical materials and criticism. His approach will raise questions about the authenticity of some works in the canon of Chinese women's literature and bring out the many ways in which men participated in the construction of this tradition.
Last year, Idema was appointed editor of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. He earned his PhD in Chinese language and literature at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he remained on the faculty for many years. Idema has published numerous Dutch translations of Chinese literature. For his translations of Chinese poetry, Idema received the Martinus Nijhoff-prijs, the Netherlands’ highest distinction for literary translators.