Jennifer Yida Pan

Jennifer Yida Pan profile Photo
Humanities Teaching Fellow
Cohort Year: 2014
Research Interests: nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature; science and technology studies; literary theory; trade and migration studies; utopian studies; literary design; design theory; theories of difference


My research and teaching take a multilingual approach to nineteenth and twentieth century fiction, science and technology studies, trade and migration studies, and literary theory, as well as their intersections with theories of difference. Broadly concerned with how real science and technology are not merely imported into but crucially transformed by the literary texts that engage them, my work is invested in the ways science and technology are integral to literary design as well as the ways literary representation of science and technology can provide insights into problems of scientific and technological discrimination.  
My current project, Chekhov’s Guns, examines how literary designs of technological objects make explicit the implicit biases of technological design. I explore how fiction thinks reflexively about the worldbuilding possibilities and contingencies of technology, asking what technological objects in fiction can tell us about the relation between a world’s values and aesthetics and the attitudes of its persons and collectives. Paying particular attention to scenes of technological accidents, my project focuses on descriptive modes of narration and the ways they weave networks of causality between technology, people, and action to trace responsibility for the unequal distribution of technological consequence along lines of race, gender, citizenship, and disability.   


18-19thC Atlantic Cultures (co-coordinator 2017-2018)

Previous Courses

ENGL 19922 Literature and Rationality (Spring 2022)

Theory, Fiction 

This course explores rationality through the lens of narrative style. Before deepfake videos and anti-vax groups, there were Edgar Allan Poe’s Balloon Hoax in the 19th century and hundreds of years of Illuminati conspiracy theories. Anxieties over how to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from error, when they can share the same formal features, have abounded throughout history. Since the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, when truth was recast as a destination rather than a possession – as something arrived at through rational analysis rather than held as tradition, superstition etc. – rational style has been taken up in various genres, both as a means of truth seeking as well as a way of critiquing rationality itself. We will explore how texts since the Enlightenment have examined the limits of rationality. Attending to categories of gender, race, dis/ability, citizenship, age, and class, we will also examine how these positions have often been aligned with intuitive/emotional ways of knowing that have been denigrated in relation to rationality. We will ask what can rationality do and not do? What kind of information is privileged in rational analysis? Who gets to be the arbiter? What, if anything, differentiates rational style as a tool for truth from rational style as a tool for fiction, nonsense, oppression, or critique? The bulk of our shared inquiry will focus on texts of the 19th and early-20th centuries, making use of slight historical distance to defamiliarize familiar aspects of rational style and sharpen our creative faculties. From there, you are invited to explore a topic of your choice in the final critical/creative project.  

ENGL 15001 Secrets and Spies: Espionage Fiction in the 20th Century (Spring 2020)

Fiction, 1830-1940, Theory

Literary history is full of writers who were suspected or confirmed spies. Espionage history also boasts a fair number of spies who became writers. Our course examines this unexpected alignment, as it thinks through the relation between spying, writing, and reading with Somerset Maugham, Ralph Ellison, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Helen MacInnes, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1959), The Lives of Others (2006), and Skyfall (2012). We will explore how espionage is involved in the practice of constructing and interpreting identity, motivation, belief. We will also explore how tensions between the ethos and the practice of espionage produce changing and often contradictory views of nationhood. Who is included or excluded in national identity is inextricably bound to sites of difference such as race, gender, class, sexuality, and disability. How does espionage, which is premised both on closeness to the enemy and immaculate patriotism, show up in the way the nation constructs itself and its others? Writings of and by spies offer unique lenses through which to examine how nations and individuals grapple with the project of distinguishing the us from the them.