Bruce Rusk

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Literary or Artistic Work Analysis
Social Determinants of Arts and Letters
Arts and Cultural Traditions
Exegesis and Sacred Text Critics
Lexicography and Dictionaries
Authentication Studies
Early Modern China
material culture

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology

Digital Humanities (GIS, text analysis)
Book history


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round
I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.
I am interested in supervising students to conduct interdisciplinary research.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Migration and native place in and after the Ming : the ancestral hometown and domicile of Li Dongyang (1447–1516) (2023)

This dissertation examines the long-term effects of the great population movements of the early Ming period (1368–1424) in China by studying the geocultural identity of internal migrants and their descendants. Such people, were affiliated with multiple places, administratively and socioculturally. It focuses on the representation of migration and its legacies in literary writings by the migrants’ descendants in mid-Ming (1425–1521), in particular the case of Li Dongyang (1447–1517), through both his own writing and posthumous commemoration of him in late imperial China (1368–1911). During the early Ming, at least one-sixth of the population migrated within the empire. Migrants and their descendants were registered and required to remain in their new domiciles. They were separated from their ancestral hometowns, which were nonetheless administratively and culturally significant, for example being recorded in civil service examination records. As the descendant of family of military migrants, Li held two different geographical identities: a person from his ancestral hometown of Chaling in modern-day Hunan province and a registered resident of Beijing. Although modern scholarship has treated Li as the leader of a “Chaling Literary School,” focusing on his connection with Chaling, I argue that he was more closely tied to Beijing. This dissertation shows that he treated these two “homes” differently and did not fully belong to either. While defining himself as a person of Chaling to acknowledge his familial roots, he expressed a personal attachment to Beijing as his place of birth, residence, and afterlife. This dissertation argues that this reflection of past migration should also be considered a significant feature of his literary works. After Li’s lifetime, the complexity of his geographical identity is reflected in his portrayal by different groups: Hunan officials in the capital regarded him as a person from their native home, whereas local Beijing literati thought of him as a neighbor in the past. Migrants and their descendants like Li has multiple geocultural identities that could be invoked to different ends, in their lifetimes and afterward.

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Scholars and their marginalia in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) (2019)

Marginalia are a variety of writings and symbols drawn by readers on the pages of books. In Chinese history, marginalia were rare in both records and physical books before the late Ming (1368-1644). The early-Qing (1644-1911) calligrapher, bibliophile, and textual scholar He Zhuo (1661-1722) devoted himself to reading and collating books and composed marginalia on hundreds of titles. After his death, the composition and transcription of marginalia started to become a popular scholarly practice. The transcription of marginalia helped to build up a rather efficient model of transmitting information, knowledge, and thought among scholars. It formed a particular scholarly culture—a systematic way for scholars to think and behave. This study explores how this scholarly culture took form, gained momentum, and shaped scholarly styles and scholars’ lives, thoughts, mental states in the Qing dynasty. The main part of this study is made up of four chapters. Chapter 2 introduces the characteristics of marginalia in comparison with other Chinese interpretive texts. Chapter 3 is a case study of He Zhuo’s marginalia. Focusing on He’s marginalia on the Hou Hanshu (History of the Later Han Dynasty [25-220]), this chapter explores He’s reading habits and scholarly practices, and their influence on later scholars and readers. Chapter 4 is concerned with questions of who participated in the practice of transcribing marginalia, how different participants were involved in the process of transcription, and their motives and attitudes. Chapter 5 analyses different transcriptionists’ colophons, so as to explore their private lives and mental states. Qing scholars spent an enormous amount of time and energy composing and transcribing marginalia. They were concerned with both content and form of marginalia. In this process, scholars not only tried to accumulate knowledge, but also pursued its aesthetic values. They inherited reading habits and scholarly approaches from Ming scholars, and developed their own way of reading, doing research, and living.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Confucian learning, politics, and the way in seventeenth-century China : Sun Qifeng (1585-1675) and The transmission of the lineage of the learning of principle (2023)

This thesis presents a reappraisal of the intellectual development of the prominent seventeenth-century Chinese scholar Sun Qifeng 孫奇逢 (1585-1675). Born in North China during the waning years of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Sun was one of the most influential Neo-Confucian thinkers of the Ming-Qing transition. Most historians typically assert that Sun’s influence in Chinese intellectual history was derived from his attempt to alleviate sectarian debates within Confucianism in his seminal work, Transmission of the Lineage of the Learning of Principle (Lixue zong chuan 理學宗傳), but this thesis proposes to contextualize Sun’s legacy in an alternative way. Using Transmission of the Lineage of the Learning of Principle as a focal point, this project reexamines Sun’s vision of the Way (dao 道) through the lens of the interaction between learning and politics during the Ming-Qing transition and offers a fresh interpretation of the collaboration between northern and southern scholarly communities in seventeenth-century China.

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  • Symptoms of an Unruly Age: Li Zhi and Cultures of Early Modernity (2018)
    Chinese Studies, 36 (4), 317--322
  • The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China (2018)
    The China Quarterly, 235, 909--911
  • The book of swindles: selections from a late Ming collection (2017)
    Columbia UP,
  • Where the Truth Lies: Evidence and Argument in Late Imperial Debates about the Great Learning (2015)
    Lectures et usages de la Grande étude, , 187--196
  • World antiquarianism: comparative perspectives (Issues & Debates), written by Alain Schnapp, Lothar von Falkenhausen, Peter N. Miller, and Tim Murray (2015)
    East Asian Publishing and Society, 5 (1), 139--143
  • Artifacts of Authentication: People Making Texts Making Things in Ming-Qing China (2012)
    Antiquarianism and intellectual life in Europe and China, 1500–1800, , 180--204
  • Critics and commentators: the Book of poems as classic and literature (2012)
    Harvard University Asia Center, (81)
  • Old Scripts, New Actors: European Encounters with Chinese Writing, 1500-1700 (2007)
    East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, (26), 68--116
  • Not Written in Stone: Ming Readers of the Great Learning and the Impact of Forgery (2006)
    Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 66 (1), 189--231

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