Dr Henk Vynckier

Henk Vynckier has a Licenciate in Germanic Philology from the Universityof Antwerp in Belgium and a PhD in Comparative Literature from the Universityof Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He has published on the literature of travel and adventure, medieval literature, Orientalism, and George Orwell.  Recent publications include  “Museifying Formosa: George Mackay’s From Far Formosa” in Sinographies: Writing China, edited by Eric Hayot, Steve Yao, and Haun Saussy (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) 247-270; “Behold the Franks: Aamin Maalouf’s s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes Revisited” in the Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture (special issue on “Barbarians—East and West before 1700”, forthcoming Fall 2011); and “Veiled Autobiography: George Orwell, Winston Smith and Nineteen Eighty-four” in George Orwell: Critical Insights, edited by John Rodden (Salem, MA: Salem Press, forthcoming 2012).  He is currently conducting an NSC sponsored research project on “The Letters and Diaries of Robert Hart: Life Writing of an Old China Hand, 1854-1866”.

Life writing has been a vital component of the English literary tradition for centuries and offers a wonderful avenue of inquiry into Robert Hart’s life and literary archive.  Yet, while parts of the Hart corpus (8 diary volumes and numerous personal letters) have been edited and investigated by historians, it has never been studied as an example of the genre of life writing within the context of the body of writings by other CMCS agents (J.O.P. Bland, Paul King, Edward C. M. Bowra, etc.) and the larger English life writing tradition.  Cut off from their distant lands of origin; Hart and other agents of the CMCS, as well as many other British, European and American “old China hands”; invariably turned to the writing of letters, diaries, memoirs and other forms of life writing to record and reflect on their expatriate existence in late imperial and early Republican China.  Many of these authors occupied prominent positions and remained in China for an extended period of time and their writings are valuable sources regarding the East-West encounter during the age of empire.  The Research Project on China’s Customs Service (1854-Present) project will make possible a systematic and interdisciplinary study of this voluminous and worthwhile body of writings.

Dr Vynckier’s CV