Allison Bernard

Allison Bernard's picture
Postdoctoral Associate in East Asian Studies and Lecturer in East Asian Languages & Literatures
Areas of interest : 
Chinese Literature; Ming-Qing Drama and Fiction; Chinese/Japanese Theater and Performance; Book History; Print Culture; Media Studies; Poetry; Material and Visual Cultures; Cultural History; Translation.
China, Japan, Transregional

Allison Bernard is a scholar of Chinese literature and culture whose research focuses on Ming-Qing drama, print and theatrical cultures, and intersections between literature and history. She is working on a book manuscript that examines the uses of metatheatre in and around Kong Shangren’s historical drama, Taohua shan (The Peach Blossom Fan). This project reveals the significance of theatrical media and performance practices for framing the political and historical valences of 17th century dramas, and demonstrates how The Peach Blossom Fan’s uses of metatheatre serve as an innovative form of historiography. Kong’s desktop drama applies theatrical media and performance conventions to model the process of “making history,” using plays within plays and references to characters’ costumes and facial makeup to highlight links between political rhetoric and stage performance. In examining the interplay of theatrical media and historiography, this project also pays special attention to Ruan Dacheng—a blacklisted mid-17th century politician and playwright, who appears on stage in The Peach Blossom Fan as a dramatic character. Re-examining the work and historical figure of Ruan Dacheng—both as a “playwright on stage” in The Peach Blossom Fan and as a dramatist in his own right—exposes further links between stage and society, and shows how writerly legacy contributes to the work of “making history” through theater. 

In addition to her work on theater and performance, Allison is interested in questions about how media shapes the reading and writing of early modern Chinese literature. Her next book project takes a media studies approach to analyzing a range of Ming-Qing literary forms, from vernacular fiction to song and essay anthologies, drawing on the concept of the feedback loop to examine the social processes of literary production and reception. She is also working on several smaller projects, including articles on early-mid Qing autobiographical playwrights Liao Yan and Xu Xi, the concept of portraiture in “portrait-poetry” by Kong Shangren, and the emperor’s role type in early modern Chinese dramas. Allison is also interested in comparisons with Japanese literature (especially drama, theater, and poetry), book history and print culture, material and visual cultures, and translation. Allison is an active translator who translates literary and scholarly materials from Chinese to English. 

Allison received her PhD in Chinese Literature from Columbia University’s Department of East Asian Literature and Culture in 2019. She also holds an MA in Chinese Literature from Columbia University (2012) and BA from Middlebury College in Chinese and History (2010). Her research and writing have been supported by numerous fellowships, including a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellowship, several Columbia University fellowships, and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS). Before coming to Yale, Allison taught in the College of East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University. 

In Spring 2022, Allison will teach a course titled “Theater and Drama Traditions of China and Japan” at Yale: a comparative and interdisciplinary seminar that examines a dramatic texts and performance practices from a range of Chinese and Japanese theater traditions. 


EAST 401, EALL 321, THST 367

Theater and Drama Traditions of China and Japan

This seminar offers a window into Chinese and Japanese drama and theater traditions from their beginnings to the 20th century. We engage issues of dramatic texts as well as performance practices; thus, the course draws on material from theater history, performance and acting conventions, and the literary history of drama. Readings and discussions span major genres of dramatic writing and their different modes of performance, including the Chinese dramatic genres of zaju and chuanqi; Chinese performance styles of Beijing opera and Kunqu; and Japanese dramatic genres and performance practices of noh, kyogen, kabuki, and puppet theater. Throughout the course, we engage closely with dramatic texts as literature, giving detailed thematic readings to some canonical and non-canonical plays. We also consider how dramatic writing and theatrical performance relate to broader trends in sociopolitical history and literary history, exploring how dramatic texts and theatrical performance embody a multivalent and multisensory space that is unique among creative enterprises. We deal with both the actor and the text, and consider how each are conditioned by modern and premodern contexts. 

Term: Spring 2022
Day/Time: Th 3:30 PM - 5:20 PM