New Faculty 2021

University of Chicago Griffin Crest Logo

Melissa Van Wyk

Assistant Professor
Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College

Melissa Van Wyk’s research is focused on kabuki theater and spectacle shows (misemono) in early modern Japan, with particular attention to how the spectacular elements of kabuki—acrobatics, extraordinary bodies, mechanical devices—not only call into question existing discourses about kabuki dramaturgy, but also reveal the theatrical nature of public discourses of knowledge, medicine, and wonder in early modern Japan. She is currently adapting her dissertation, “Restaging the Spectacular: Misemono and Kabuki Theater 1700–1900,” into a book manuscript. Her second project, on “true crime” in early modern Japan, will examine how elements like scandal, sensation, documentary, and fictionality manifest in both drama and fiction, arguing that the theater, in particular, served as a driving force behind the circulation of sensationalized and sympathetic figures of scandal and crime.

She has presented her work at conventions and conferences of the Modern Language Association, Kabuki Gakkai, Association for Asian Studies, and Association for Asian Performance.

Van Wyk holds a BA in classical studies and Latin from Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and an MA in Japanese studies from the University of Michigan. She completed her PhD in East Asian languages and cultures at the University of California, Berkeley. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct dissertation research in Japan and recently completed a research fellowship at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Read more about Melissa Van Wyk