Bunting Program
Williams College
Asian Literature
A Useless Branch: Growing Up and Growing Old in Nüshu Culture


A scholar in Asian literature, Cathy Silber has conducted extraordinary fieldwork and research in her area of expertise. In 1988–1989, Silber studied with the two only living women who practiced nüshu, a southern Hunan script and a literary tradition used only by women. She is currently an assistant professor of Chinese at Williams College. Prior to her position at Williams, Silber was an assistant professor of Chinese at Iowa State University. She has also worked as translator and editor of English books for the Foreign Language Press and was an English instructor in Baotou Teachers’ Training College in Baotou, Inner Mongolia. Her translation of Geling Yan’s The Lost Daughter of Happiness is slated for publication in 2001 (Hyperion Press).

While at the Bunting, Silber will work on a project titled “A Useless Branch: Growing Up and Growing Old in Nüshu Culture.” Inspired by ethnographies of literature, Silber’s book on Chinese women’s script literature presents these texts as social practices in the contexts of their production and reception. She will examine conventions of women’s understandings and representations of themselves, the relationship between social and textual subjects, and the gendered relationship between local and national cultures in China.

Silber received her PhD in Chinese literature from the University of Michigan.

This information is accurate as of the fellowship year indicated for each fellow.