Skip to main content

Hsuan L. Hsu, PhD

Professor, English
Member, Centre for Sensory Studies

Hsuan L. Hsu, PhD
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext.


a.b. Harvard University, 1998
ph.d. University of California, Berkeley 2004

I joined Concordia University's English department in 2019 after teaching at Yale University and UC Davis.

My research interests include 19th and 20th-Century U.S. literature, Asian diasporic literature, race studies, cultural geography, sensory studies, and the environmental humanities. I'm the author of Geography and the Production of Space in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Cambridge, 2010) and Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain, Asia, and Comparative Racialization (NYU, 2015). My current book project, The Smell of Risk: Atmospheric Disparities and the Olfactory Arts (under contract, NYU Press)considers olfactory aesthetics as a mode of engaging with environmental injustice in literature, art, memoir, and law.

These projects have been supported by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Davis Humanities Institute, the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation's Arts Writers Program, Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the UC Humanities Research Institute, and Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, and a SSHRC Insight Grant.

I've served on the editorial boards of 
American Literature, Literary Geographies, the Journal of Transnational American Studies, American Literary Realism, and Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture. and the Broadview Anthology of American Literature, the Executive Council of the American Literature Society, and the Executive Committee of the MLA's forum for Nineteenth-Century American Literature. At Concordia, I am a member of the Center for Sensory Studies.

Teaching activities

Teaching Interests

My recent courses have covered topics such as literature and climate change, realism and race, aesthetics and the chemical senses, naturalism and the environment, geographies of risk, the aesthetics of atmosphere, and the health humanities. I have also facilitated independent reading courses in topics such as spatial theory, Indigenous literature, and nineteenth-century American literature.

I have advised dissertations and M.A. theses on topics such as domestic labor in California literature, connections between structural vulnerability and narrative time, race and disability in nineteenth-century American literature, queer settler colonial narratives of the North American West, anti-nuclearism in Indigenous Oceanic culture, and race and space in urban literature.


selected publications

The Smell of Risk: Environmental Disparities and Olfactory Aesthetics. forthcoming, NYU Press.


Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain’s Asia and Comparative Racialization. (New York: NYU Press, America and the Long Nineteenth Century, February 2015).


Geography and the Production of Space in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture), 2010. 257pp.


Literary Atmospherics. Edited essay cluster to be published in the online journal Literary Geographies. forthcoming.


Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins. Edited volume with critical introduction and supplementary documents. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2016.


Representing Environmental Risk in the Landscapes of US Militarization. Online, peer-reviewed exhibit and essay funded and published by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, University of Munich, Germany.,000 words. 2014.


Mrs. Spring Fragrance. Edited volume with critical introduction and supplementary documents. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2011.


Circa 1898. Edited Special Forum with introduction for the Journal of Transnational American Studies 3:2 (2011).


Race, Environment, and Representation. Guest co-editor. Special issue of Discourse:Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture 29:2-3 (Spring and Fall 2007 [backdated: published May 2009]).


American Literary Geographies: Spatial Practice and Cultural Production, 1500-1900. Essay collection co-edited with Martin Brückner.Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2007. 367pp.


Asian American Subgenres, 1853-1945. Guest editor. Special double issue of Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 39:3-4 (Fall/Winter 2006). 2 volumes.

"Eau de Parasite." NYU Press blog. Feb 20, 2020.

“Urban Narratives and the Spatial Turn.” Co-authored with Sophia Bamert. The City in American Literature and Culture (Cambridge University Press, Invited).

“Post-Apocalyptic Geographies and Structural Appropriation.” Co-authored with Bryan Yazell. Invited contribution to the Routledge Companion to Transnational American Studies, eds. Nina Morgan, Alfred Hornung, and Takayuki Tatsumi (Routledge, 2019). Reprinted in Journal of Transnational American Studies 10:2 (2019).

“Uncollected: Re-Mapping Sui Sin Far/Edith Maude Eaton.” Co-authored with Edlie Wong. Invited contribution to Asian American Literature in Transition,, vol. 1, eds. Josephine Lee and Julia Lee (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

“Boris Raux and the Smell of Narcissus,” Senses & Society 14:1 (Mar 2019) 15-30.

<An Interpretation of the Dark World: Mark Twain and Asian Immigrants in HisWorks>, Chinese translation/reprint of “Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain and America’s Asia,” <<Learning and Exploration>> 4 (2018) pgs.144-50 trans. Shang Feifei, ed. Dandan Yang, Harbin, China (invited).

“Smelling Setting,” Modernism/Modernity, Print Essay Cluster on “Modernist Setting,”eds. Dora Zhang and Hannah Freed-Thall (March 2018), online.

“Paleo-Narratives and White Atavism, 1898-2015,” ISLE:Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 26:2 (Spr 2019) 296-323.

“Literary Atmospherics.” Invited contribution to the “Thinking Space” column. Literary Geographies 3:1 (2017) 1-5.

“Literature Across Scales.” Invited contribution to the Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space, ed. Robert Tally, Jr (New York:Routledge,2017), 125-34.


“De Geur Van Risico.” In Peter de Cupere:Scent in Context (Antwerp: Stockmans, 2016) 148-150 (Dutch translation of “The Smell of Risk”)

“The Smell of Risk.” In Peter de Cupere: Scent in Context (Antwerp: Stockmans, 2016) 87-91. Invited.

“Olfactory Art, Trans-Corporeality, and the Museum Environment.” Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 4:1 (Winter 2016) 1-24.


“Naturalist Smellscapes and Environmental Justice.American Literature 88:4 (Dec 2016) 787-814.


“Literary Topographies and the Scales of Environmental Justice.” ELN: English Language Notes 52:1 (Spr/Summer 2014), 45-56(invited).

“Nineteenth-Century Orientalisms.” Invited contribution to RoutledgeCompanion to Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature, Ed Rachel Lee (Routledge,2014) 191-201.


“Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain and America’s Asia.” American Literary History 25:1 (Spr 2013) 69-84 (invited).

Gravity: A 3D Movie About 3D Movies.” Avidly (Nov 7, 2013). Online magazine.


“Guahan (Guam), Literary Emergence, and the American Pacific in Homebase and fromunincorporated territory.” American Literary History 24:2 (Summer 2012) 281-307.


“Fatal Contiguities: Metonymy and Environmental Justice in Their Dogs Came With Them.New Literary History 42:1 (Winter 2011) 147-68.

“Chronotopes of the Asian American West.” Invited contribution for A Companion to the Literature and Culture of the American West. Ed. Nicolas S. Witschi. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011. 145-160.


“Mika Rottenberg’s Productive Bodies.” CameraObscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 25:2 (2010), 40-73. Revised version invited and published in Mika Rottenberg. Exhibition Catalogue (G.R. Miller & Company with De Appel Arts Centre, 2011), 94-115.


Vagrancy and Comparative Racialization in Huckleberry Finn and ‘Three Vagabonds of Trinidad.’” American Literature 81:4 (Dec 2009): 687-717. Honorable Mention forthe Norman Foerster Prize for the best essay published in American Literature in 2009. Don D. Walker Award for the best essay on Western American literature published in 2009.


“The Dangers of Biosecurity: The Host and the Geopolitics of Outbreak.” Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media 51 (Spring 2009), online journal. 8,370 words.

“Health Media and Global Inequalities.” Co-authored with Martha Lincoln. Invited essay, Daedalus: Journal of the American Academyof Arts and Sciences 138:2 (Spring 2009): 20-30.

“Biopower, Bodies…the Exhibition, and the Spectacle of Public Health.” Co-authored with Martha Lincoln. Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studiesin Media and Culture 29:1 (Winter 2007 [backdated—published 2008]): 15-34.

“New Regionalisms: Literature and Uneven Development.” Invited contribution for A Companion to the Modern American Novel, 1900-1950, 218-39. Ed. John T. Matthews. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.

“Wong Chin Foo’s Periodical Writing and Chinese Exclusion.” Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 39:3-4 (Fall/Winter 2006): 83-105.


“Mimicry, Spatial Captation, and Feng Shui in Han Ong’s Fixer Chao.” Modern Fiction Studies 52:3 (Fall 2006): 675-704. Awarded the Margaret Church Memorial Prize for 2006.

“Racial Privacy, the L.A. Ensemble Film, and Paul Haggis’s Crash.” Film Criticism 31:1 (Fall/Winter 2006): 132-56.

“Literature and Regional Production.” American Literary History 17:1 (Spring2005): 36-69. Awarded the Nineteenth Century Studies AssociationEmerging Scholars Award for 2006.

“War, Ekphrasis, and Elliptical Form in Melville’s Battle-Pieces,Nineteenth Century Studies 16 (2002): 51-71.

“Democratic Expansionism in ‘Memoirs of Carwin,’” Early American Literature 35:2 (Fall 2000): 137-56.


recent presentations

“The Hyperosmic Detective.” Paper presented; convener of “Olfactory Genres” panel; MLA, Seattle, Jan 2020.

“Decolonizing Smell.” Invited talk. Environmental Humanities lecture series, New York University, Nov 2019.


“California’s Racial Ecologies.” Co-organizer and co-convener (with Sarah Wald) of a post-conference workshop for faculty and PhD students. Association for the Study of Literature & the Environment, Davis, CA June 2019.


“Decolonizing Smell.” Presenter and convener for a panel on “Olfactory Ecologies.” Association for the Study of Literature & the Environment. Davis, CA; June 2019.

“Making a Stink: Racial Capitalism and Speculative Atmospherics.” Invited talk, Obama Center for Transnational American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz. May 2019.


“Olfactory Aesthetics and the Politics of Deodorization.” Invited talk, English Department, Dickinson College, Nov 2018.


“Decolonizing Smell.” Invited talk. Local Americanists series, University of Maryland. Oct2018.

“Synthetic Atmospheres and Olfactory Art.” American Studies Association. Atlanta, 2018. Invited panelist.

“Pacific Intersections.” Invited organizer and convener of a seminar for faculty and PhD students. C19: Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. Albuquerque; March 2018.


“Atmo-Orientalism: Olfactory Racialization and Environmental Health.”  Invited talk. Spatial Humanities Working Group. University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, March 2018.

“Debilitating Spaces.” Session convener. MLA, New York, Jan 2018.

“Olfactory Art and Differential Deodorization.” Paper presenter and convener for a panel on “Media, Atmospherics, and Risk.” ASAP/Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. Berkeley, CA; Oct 2017.


“Mining Ethnicity” Workshop, Literary Lab and Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University, May 19 2017. Invited participant.

“Olfactory Ecocriticism and ‘Air Conditioning.’” Presentation and co-convener of a panel on “Ecocriticism and the Lower Senses.” Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Detroit, MI; June 2017.


“Eco-Orientalisms:Transpacific Articulations of Race and Environmental Health.” Invited keynote speaker. “Narratives of the Global Ecosystem” workshop. DFG Research Network onEnvironmental Crisis and the Transnational Imagination.” Regensburg, Germany, Sept 2016.


“Geographies of Risk: Environmental Violence in the Global South.” Invited keynote speaker.“Done with Eurocentrism?” conference hosted by Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology. Bielefeld University, Germany, June 2016.


“Olfactory Art, Trans-corporeality, and the Museum Environment.” Invited talk, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA, Feb 1, 2016.


“Mark Twain and Legal Restrictions on Chinese Testimony.” Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies Workshop presentation, UC Davis School of Law. Feb 24,2015.

“Environmental Literatures of the Militarized Pacific.” MLA panel on “Ethnicity and Environment” organized by the Committee on Literatures of People of Color, Jan 8-11 2015.


“Paleo-Fiction and White Atavism, 1898-2014.” Invited speaker. UC Davis English Department’s annual Fall Faculty Lecture. Oct 17, 2014.


“Mark Twain, Imperial Romance, and Chinese Modernization.” Invited speaker. Ertegun House, Oxford University. May 30, 2014.


“Literary Topographies and the Scale of Environmental Justice.” Invited Plenary Speaker. Rethinking Globalization and the Challenges of Scale: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences.” North Carolina State University. April 24-5, 2014.


“Mark Twain, Chinese Immigration, and Comparative Racialization.” Invited lecture, University of Michigan US Literatures and Cultures Consortium. Mar 24, 2014.


“Literary Topographies and the Scale of Environmental Justice.” Invited workshop presentation. University of Michigan US Literatures and Cultures Consortium.Mar 25, 2014.

“Of Mimicry and Hipsters.” Invited keynote speaker. Camouflage Cultures conference. Sydney, Australia, Aug 8-11, 2013.


“‘Sitting in Darkness’: Mark Twain and America’s Asia.” Invited talk, University of Notre Dame Department of English. November 5 2012.


“Visual Technologies and American Literature.” Fellows colloquium session, Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Mar 13 2013.


“Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain and America’s Asia.” Invited talk at American Literary History Symposium. Urbana-Champaign, Mar 29-31. 2012.

Participation activities

Back to top

© Concordia University