Ph.D. Princeton University; MA Yale University; BA Indiana University
About or Bio
Keith McMahon is professor of Chinese at the University of Kansas. He received his B.A. in French and Comparative Literature from Indiana University in 1974, his M.A. in Chinese from Yale University in 1976, and his Ph.D. in Chinese from Princeton in 1984. He studies the history of sexuality in China from ancient times to the verge of modernity, including most recently the history of imperial women from the Han dynasty to the Qing. He has just published Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao and Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing (Rowman and Littlefield), a two-volume history of imperial marriage and women rulers. Other areas of interest are: fictional narrative of late imperial China, mythical and historical narrative from ancient times to the end of the last dynasty, and the culture of opium smoking in 19th century China and Euro-America.
Recent and Selected Publications
“The Polyandrous Empress: Imperial Women and Their Male Favorites.” In Mark Stevenson and Wu Cuncun, eds., Wanton Women in Late-Imperial Chinese Literature: Models, Genres, Subversions, and Traditions. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2017. Pp. 29-53.
Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines from Song to Qing, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.
"The Potent Eunuch: The Story of Wei Zhongxian," in Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, 1.1-2 (Nov. 2014): 1-28.
Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.
"The Institution of Polygamy in the Chinese Imperial Palace," Journal of Asian Studies (Nov. 2013): 917-36.
Recent Courses Taught
Sexual Politics in Dynastic China; Daily Life in China from the Opium War to 1911; Myth, Legend, and Folk Belief in East Asia; Advanced Chinese.
Areas of Interest
Chinese myths and legends
History of sexuality in China
The institution of polygamy in China
Women ruler in China
The culture of opium smoking
Keith McMahon studies Ming and Qing fiction, gender character types in Chinese literature and history, and Chinese narrative of all periods. He received his B.A. in French and Comparative Literature from Indiana University, his M.A. in Chinese from Yale University, and his Ph.D. in Chinese from Princeton University. He studied one year of Chinese in Taiwan, did Ph.D. and post-doctorate research in Shanghai and Beijing for four years, and since the late 1970s has visited Taiwan, Shanghai, and Beijing regularly. He has taught at the University of Kansas since 1984, where he was chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures between 1996 and 2008. He is on the editorial board of Nan Nü: Men, Women and Gender in China and the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture.
In the past fifteen years he has written on opium smoking in 19th and 20th century China; polygamy, concubinage, and prostitution in eighteenth and nineteenth-century fiction; sexuality and psychoanalytic theory in China; and most recently the history of imperial wives and concubines from the legendary past to the end of the Qing, about which he published a new book in 2013, Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao. He has lectured in Chinese and English on these topics in the United States, China, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, and France. Besides teaching and writing, he has been an active cyclist since 1970 and rides approximately 8000 miles every year.
For additional information about Professor McMahon's research, please visit KU ScholarWorks ».