Collegiate Affiliation

Professor Alia Goehr is a scholar of early modern Chinese literature, religion, and intellectual history. Her research and teaching interests include fiction and drama of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries; the interaction of literary and religious thought and practices; Chinese commentary traditions; and aesthetically mediated understandings of mind, corporeality, and the real. Her current book project, tentatively titled "Bodies of Truth: Jin Shengtan's Six Works of Genius" constitutes the first English-language monograph on Jin Shengtan 金聖歎 (1608–1661)—the nonpareil of early modern Chinese fiction and drama criticism—in over fifty years. "Bodies of Truth" reframes Jin's literary endeavors as an outgrowth of seventeenth-century Chinese experiments with literature's spiritual potential. By reading his commentary editions of great works, including the vernacular novel Water Margin and the song-drama Romance of the Western Chamber, alongside contemporaneous Buddhist and Neo-Confucian writings, this project reveals the philosophical and religious import of Jin's understanding of literary genius (cai 才) as an artistically skillful bodhisattva inhabiting the infinitely intersubjective Buddhist truth-body (fashen 法身, Skt. dharmakāya). In doing so, the book identifies an alternate (pre-modern, Chinese) historical basis for literary realism, which Jin Shengtan formulated as an antidote to both moral excess and moral authoritarianism, and, in turn, a gateway to a morally and politically functioning society.

Goehr is also in the early stages of research for two future book projects, including a study of Tang Xianzu's four dream plays and an examination of how Qing-dynasty commentators constructed an image of the late Ming as a period of literary and religious excess and imaginative overindulgence.

As an interdisciplinary scholar, Goehr is receptive to working with colleagues and students across disciplines, periods, and regions of expertise. She is an affiliate faculty in the Religious Studies program at the University of Minnesota and participates in workshops and conferences organized by the Center for Premodern Studies and Theorizing Early Modern Studies at UMN as well as the Association for Asian Studies, the American Comparative Literature Association, and the American Academy of Religion. She is also happy to collaborate with scholars based at institutions outside North America. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago in 2021, where she served as a Teaching Fellow until 2023. Her research has been supported by Princeton University Library, the Taiwanese Ministry of Education, and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago.

Educational Background & Specialties
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Educational Background

  • PhD: Comparative Literature, University of Chicago
  • BA: Chinese, Reed College


  • Ming- and Qing-period Chinese literature
  • Chinese Religions
  • The Novel & World Literature
  • Theories of Mind and Corporeality
  • Commentary Traditions