(so much appreciate that IU would think to feature yours truly that I’m cutting and pasting here).
Alumnus Profile: Paul Manfredi
EALC Ph.D., 2001
Considering that Paul Manfredi has been “inclined to ponder various subjects at great length” for as long as he can remember, a career in academia seemed like a good fit. An early interest in the arts led him to pursue an undergraduate degree in theatre at the California Institute of the Arts, where he ended up in a Tai Chi class to fulfill a curricular requirement. Tai Chi immediately sparked Paul’s curiosity about Chinese culture, which led him to an overseas study experience in China and a growing desire to master Mandarin Chinese. He came to the decision to focus on modern Chinese culture, specifically poetry, by reasoning that “China is the type of civilization that bears a great deal of its tradition in all its cultural products, no matter how modern or avant-garde (an observation which can’t easily be turned around). Thus, learning about modern Chinese poetry would perforce entail recourse to literary tradition which always remained an area of interest.” As Paul delved more deeply into the subject, he became intrigued with the notion of the modernity of the poetic lyrical subject in the Chinese language. This interest, which developed during his first year as a graduate student at IU, has been with him ever since.
According to Paul, one of his most memorable experiences at IU was attending classes “where I felt a very high degree of camaraderie with my classmates, a kind of pure intellectual enterprise that perhaps much of graduate study aspires to, but rarely achieves.” Additionally, the pedagogy training Paul received from EALC Professor Jennifer Liu while he was an associate instructor in the Chinese language program proved to be invaluable preparation for his career in teaching.
Since receiving his Ph.D. from the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures in 2001, Paul’s academic career has flourished. Now an associate professor and chair of the Chinese Studies Program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, he is currently working on a project that connects word and image in modern and contemporary Chinese poetry, having increasingly turned his attention to contemporary painting. He recently published two articles in Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art concerning the Sichuan painter Zhong Biao 钟飙 and will begin working on a documentary film on Zhong Biao and other contemporary artists this summer. Additionally, an article titled “Between Word and Image: Luo Qing and the Visual-Verbal Self Portrait” is forthcoming in Chinese Literature Today.
Paul’s advice for current students and recent graduates? He recommends devoting as much time as possible to learning the language because once one accepts an academic position, time for language study becomes scarce. He tells recent graduates not to look askance upon spending a few years in visiting positions at different universities. While sometimes perceived negatively, Paul believes visiting positions offer a prospective faculty member the opportunity to not only experience other institutions, but also develop oneself as a scholar, teacher, and colleague.