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Kendall A. Johnson



As an interdisciplinary scholar of early American, British, and European literatures and history, Prof. Johnson researches material print culture in a transnational and global historical frame. Prior to joining the University of Hong Kong, he was an Associate Professor of Early American Literature at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. He was a Fulbright Visiting Associate Professor in American Studies at The University of Hong Kong for the 2008‐2009 academic year. After joining HKU he served as the Director the American Studies Programme (2010-2014) and the Head of the School of Modern Languages and cultures (2011-2017). His most recent single‐authored book is The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017). Other publications include Henry James and the Visual (Cambridge University Press, 2007; 2011), Narratives of Free Trade in Early US-China Relations (Hong Kong University Press, 2010; contributing editor), the Critical Companion to Henry James (FactsOnFile 2009, with Eric L. Haralson) and several essays on Native American literature, among them "Imagining Self and Community in Native American Autobiography" in *The Columbia Guide to American Indian Literatures of the United States Since 1945* (Columbia University Press 2006; edited by Eric Cheyfitz). His articles have appeared in Modern Fiction StudiesAmerican Literary History (ALH)American LiteratureAmerican Quarterly, and elsewhere.

Selected Publications

The New Middle Kingdom
China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017

The emergence of America’s diplomatic relationship with China, the quest to spread the Christian gospel amid the clamor for free trade, and the promise of commerce across a landscape that traversed the Far East is the subject of Johnson’s riveting book. The narratives Johnson (Univ. of Hong Kong) explores offer an unprecedented look into the nature of a romance that captures, as he observes, “the interwoven strands of national anxiety, commercial optimism and diplomatic imperialism” that materialized at a pivotal moment after the Revolutionary War. Through key political publications, such as Harper’s Weekly, and other sites of inquiry, readers learn of critical figures who espoused the romance of free trade, discovery, and attempts to export cultural institutions in definitive ways. In doing so, Johnson chronicles a fascinating account of how the nation forged a new alliance with China in a triumphalist era to reposition the US as the world’s new Middle Kingdom. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. (Dr. N. Sackeyfio)

-CHOICE (Association of College and Research Libraries)

The New Middle Kingdom is at its core an account of those who shaped the US’ early relationship with China. By examining these figures through their own works and their national context, Johnson crafts a remarkable argument about the intricacies of both the China trade, and, more challengingly, the roots of American empire to be found there. As a work of deep archival research, the book will be valuable to scholars of the US’ first century, particularly for those working at the intersections of literature and commerce. The book also performs a useful service for those working on imperialism in East Asia through its meticulously documented accounts of how empire actually functioned. Finally, and perhaps most unexpectedly, Johnson’s work will be of great interest to scholars of the Qing dynasty because of its lucid presentation of early American engagement with China, which offers a springboard for new research into an often-glossed period of Chinese history. (Dr. Daniel M. Dooghan)

American Literary History

In this stunningly refreshing literary study of American perceptions of China during the antebellum period, Kendall Johnson has delivered an indispensable critique, which will appeal widely to both historians and scholars of American studies. (Dr. Pang Yang Huei)

The History Teacher (Society for History Education)

Likewise, in exploring, in so much depth and so persuasively, the “romance of free trade,” Johnson has prepared the way for further explorations of how different approaches to American political economy intersected with US-China relations, as well as provided a basis for interrogating why—and how—there could have been such ideological and narrative continuity amid such significant change in this complex relationship. (Dr. Dael Norwood)

-Humanities and Social Sciences Online (HNet)

Oceanic Archives, Indigenous Epistemologies, and Transpacific American Studies.

Contributing co-editor with Yuan Shu and Otto Heim.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2019.

Includes my chapter: “Residing in ‘South-Eastern Asia’ of the Antebellum United States: Reverend David Abeel and the World Geography of American Print Evangelism and Commerce”: 62-90.

Narratives of Free Trade:
The Commercial Cultures of Early US-China Relations.

Contributing editor
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012.

Narratives of Free Trade joins a growing literature concerned with unraveling how Americans’ engagement with China and Chinese engagement with Americans shaped each nation, and in turn how these encounters shaped the modern global system. By mobilizing new and old forms of analysis in service of this project, and by putting scholars of the United States and China into conversation, the book opens up new vistas for exploration and expands a field that we can expect will continue to grow for some years to come. (Dr. Dael Norwood)

Humanities and Social Sciences Online (HNet)

Overall, by focusing on individuals’ experiences and reflections, this book encourages readers to revisit the unfolding history of US–China relations from those earliest commercial encounters. The biggest takeaway is a rather diversified perspective, from which we are able to better understand the complexity of US–China relations, both in the past and the present. (Dr. Lei Yu)

-Asian Studies Review

Henry James and the Visual

Cambridge University Press, 2007; paperback, 2011.

From the opening sentence of the book... [Johnson] makes a convincing case for the resonance that he identifies between the visual languages of these pictures and James's own visual language. (Professor Susan Griffin)

New England Quarterly

Henry James and the Visual is well worth reading for anyone interested in understanding the powerful representational effect and meaning of the picturesque during the nineteenth century and, especially, for learning how that mode was used and complicated by Henry James. (Professor Greg Zacharias, Center for Henry James Studies)

-American Studies

"Imagining Self and Community in Native American Autobiography."
In The Columbia Guide to Native American Literature of the United States: 1945-Present.

Edited by Eric Cheyfitz.
Columbia University Press, 2006. pp. 357-401.

Critical Companion to Henry James:
A Literary Reference to His Life and Word.

Contributing co-editor with Eric Haralson
New York: FactsOnFile, 2009.

The book has two great strengths. The first is that the entries are readable and engaging. The second is the inclusion of a critical analysis for every work in part 2 and a list of references for all entries in parts 2 and 3. Authors Haralson (Stony Brook University) and Johnson (Swarthmore College) provide this level of information with the assistance of more than 60 contributors. Although no comprehensive list of contributors is provided, each entry lists the contributor’s name and credentials. This book is an excellent resource for school, public, and academic libraries. (Cynthia Crosser)

BOOKLIST (American Library Association)

  • “Extraterritorial Publication and American Missionary Authority about the Opium War: Contesting the Eloquence and Reciprocity of John Quincy Adams’s ‘Lecture on the War with China.” Literature and History, 29.1 (May 2020): 1-23.

  • “Once Upon a Time in 1784: American Mercantile Biographies and the Romance of Free Trade Imperialism.” China and Global Modernity, 1784-1919. Edited by William Christie and Q. S. Tong. Sydney University Press, forthcoming 2020.

  • Revising Escape: Frederick Douglass’s Civic Promise of Free Trade and Amitav Ghosh’s Global Geography of Commerce.” In Rethinking America’s Past: Voices from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection. Edited by Tim Gruenewald. University of Cincinnati Press, 2019:  67-119.

  • "The Sacred Fonts and Racial Frames of the American Mission Press: Mongolian Type, Chinese Exclusion, and the Transnational Figuration of Savagery," American Quarterly 71.1 (March 2019):1-28;  Beyond the Page coda.

  • "Caleb Cushing and the Corporate Romance of Free Trade Imperialism in Washington Irving’s Astoria (1836)," Literature Compass, 14.9 (September 2017): 1-11.

  • "Captivity Narratives." In Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature. Eds. Jackson Bryer, Richard Kopley, and Paul Lauter. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. (DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199827251-0115).

  • "Henry James and the China Trade," Modern Fiction Studies 60.4 (Winter 2014): 677-710.

  • "Reading for Contexts of American Orientalism from the Far East to the Far West," American Literary History (ALH) 25.3 (Fall 2013): 638-659.

  • "Revising First Impressions: American Stereotypes of China and the National Romance of Free Trade" and
    "The Speculative Romance of Early Sino-American Commerce in The Journals of Major Samuel Shaw, the First American Consul at Canton (1847)." In Narratives of Free Trade: The Commercial Cultures of Early US-China Relations , 2012.

  • "The Place of Macao In American Literary Studies." In Introduction to Macaology. Edited by Hao Yufan, Wu Zhiliang, and Lin Guangzhi. Beijing: Shehui Kexue Wenxian Chubanshe, 2012: 289-312.

  • Review of Henry James's Narrative Technique: Consciousness, Perception and Cognition (2010) by Kristin Boudreau, and The Illustration of the Master: Henry James and the Magazine Revolution (2010) by Amy Tucker. In American Literature 84.1 (March 2012): 196-198.

  • "Henry James, 1843-1916: A Brief Biography." In A Historical Guide to Henry James. Edited by John Carlos Rowe and Eric Haralson. Oxford University Press, 2012: 14-52.

  • Review of Red Land, Red Power: Grounding Knowledge in the American Indian Novel (2008) by Sean Kicummah Teuton, and Seeing Red: Anger, Sentimentality, and American Indians (2008) by Cari M. Carpenter. In American Literature 82.2 (June 2010): 439-441.

  • "Visual Culture." In Henry James in Context. Edited by David McWhirter. Cambridge University Press, 2010. p. 364-377.

  • "Peace, Friendship, and Financial Panic: Reading the Mark of Black Hawk in Life of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak." American Literary History. 19.4 (Winter 2007): 771-99.

  • "Book review of Oz Frankel, States of Inquiry: Social Investigations and Print Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain and the United StatesNineteenth-Century Contexts. 30.3 (September 2008): pp. 285-87.

  • Reviews of The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era by George Yúdice and Individuality Incorporated:Indians and the Multicultural Modern by Joel Pfister. American Literature. 77.3 (Summer 2005).

  • "Rising from the stain on a painter's palette: George Catlin's Picturesque and the Legibility of Indian Removal." Nineteenth Century Prose. 29.2 (Fall 2002): 69-93.

  • "The Dark Spot in the Picturesque: The Aesthetics of Polygenism and Henry James's 'A Landscape Painter.'" American Literature. 74. 1 (Spring 2002): 59-87.

  • "The Scarlet Feather: Racial Phantasmagoria in What Maisie Knew." The Henry James Review. 22.2 (Spring 2001): 128-146.

  • "Melville and the Post-Colonial Quandary," Review of The Sign of the Cannibal: Melville and the Making of a Post-Colonial Reader by Geoffrey Sanborn. American Literature. 72.2 (June 2000): 423.

  • Critical essays on Henry James, Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, Ralph Ellison, and Yukio Mishima for Short Stories for Students, a series by Gale Research Co.: Detroit, 2000.

  • "Haunting Transcendence: The Strategy of Ghosts in Breton and Bataille." Twentieth-Century Literature. 45.3 (Fall 1999): 347-370.

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