Professor of Chinese
Cowles-Kruidenier Chair of Chinese Studies
This chair is newly created, using funds from a 1988 grant from the Gardner and Florence Call Cowles Foundation to endow the Chinese Studies program at Grinnell College. Professor Cook is the first holder of the chair.
He joined Grinnell’s Chinese Department faculty in 1996 after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. He became the department’s first tenured professor in 2002, and was promoted to full professor in 2009. He has been integral to establishing the study of Chinese and, more recently, Japanese, at Grinnell. These were the first non-European languages to be offered at Grinnell, and represented a decisive expansion of the curriculum. Professor Cook has been instrumental in keeping these languages at the core of the East Asian Studies Concentration, which he helped to establish. He teaches all levels of the Chinese language—including Classical Chinese, which is as different from modern Chinese as Latin is from Italian. He continues to explore ways to use technology to overcome some of the difficulties that attend trying to teach a language in sections of as many as 30 students. His experience as a non-native learner who has achieved all-but-native speaker proficiency is a model for his students, and particularly beginners.
Professor Cook is a scholar of international renown in early Chinese paleography and textual analysis, with deep understanding of the philosophical context and content of these early texts. His productivity would be impressive at a research university; given the heavy teaching and service duties in a small department, it is truly remarkable. Since being tenured, he has published a full length book and many articles in Chinese, a record that is unusual among English-speaking scholars. Yet his publications in Chinese represent only about half of his output. His record in English is similarly impressive. He edited the 2003 volume Hiding the World in the World: Uneven Discourses on the Zhuangzi, for the State University of New York Press. He has recently edited and translated into English a series of bamboo strips recently excavated from a tomb in Hubei, amounting to more than 900 pages of transcription, translation, and commentary. This book, The Bamboo Texts of Guodian: a Study and Complete Translation, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press. In addition to his work on the texts themselves, he serves as a vital bridge between scholars on both sides of the Taiwan straits and those in Japan, Europe, and North America. He has recently embarked on an innovative research project involving the role played by drinking customs and etiquette in early Chinese philosophical texts.
He has been called upon as an external reviewer for tenure, and as a referee for major academic journals and presses. In addition, Professor Cook serves on the editorial boards of three Chinese-language journals in the field, in both Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. He was recently elected by his colleagues to a prestigious seat on the editorial board of the premier English-language journal in his field, Early China. At Grinnell, he has served on several faculty standing committees, including selection committees for the Grinnell Corps and for graduate fellowships for students. He regularly takes his turn as chair of the department and of the East Asian Studies concentration. Moreover, he regularly takes part in the annual selection of visiting faculty from Nanjing and Waseda Universities, and actively cultivates Grinnell’s relationships with both universities.