It is with great sadness we report the passing on September 23, 2020 of Jingyuan Zhang, Associate Professor Emerita in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and member of the Steering Committee for the Comparative Literature Program.
Professor Zhang joined the faculty at Georgetown in 1994 and retired this past summer. She held a B.A. and M.A. in English from Sichuan University of International Studies and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Cornell University. She held a tenured position in the Chinese Department and Institute of Comparative Literature at Peking University for three years before returning to the United States to teach at Cornell, U.C. Berkeley and finally Georgetown. Her main research interests were in modern Chinese literature and culture, particularly in the relationship between Chinese psychoanalytic thought and literary practice, on which topic she was a leading authority.
She published in both English and Chinese (including short stories and a newspaper essay column), and her work as a translator also made works by a number of important Chinese scholars accessible to English-speaking audiences. As Georgetown’s specialist on modern Chinese culture, she taught on a wide range of topics, including Lu Xun and other major writers of the May 4th era, images of women in contemporary Chinese film, contemporary Chinese women writers, modern Chinese drama, and Chinese avant-garde fiction. Above her desk hung framed portraits of the leading Chinese authors of the 1930s, alongside Virginia Woolf. At various times she also taught the introduction to Comparative Literature, bolstered the basic Chinese language program by teaching upper-level language courses and mentored countless senior projects for both the Chinese and Comparative Literature programs.
When Professor Zhang arrived at Georgetown, the Chinese program consisted of four full-time faculty members. When she retired, there were ten, and she had been heavily involved in hiring and mentoring all of the ones who came after her. The program’s growth into one of the strongest undergraduate programs in the country owed much to her energy, devotion and mastery of organizational detail. Those same habits were shared more widely when she served as Department Chair from 2015-2018.
Professor Zhang’s demanding yet ever-supportive nature made a great impression on decades of colleagues and students. In her later years, she went back to being a student, this time of studio art, and she blossomed into a talented and accomplished painter. Her art works have been featured in public exhibitions both in the U.S. and in China. Her generosity and exemplary collegiality will be deeply missed.