Maddalena Poli


PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations


Maddalena is a PhD candidate in the EALC department. As intellectual historian, she investigates the process of textual production and composition in early China. Her research looks at what role oratory played in such process, and how it shaped textual composition during the Warring States (476–221BCE). Her doctoral dissertation The Good, the Bad, and the Barbaric. Human Nature in early China focuses on the concept of human nature (xing 性), and the emergence of a technical vocabulary dedicated to it. Given her strong interest in philology, she has organized the workshop NAKED TEXT and co-organized the event Script and Sound in Old Chinese. Her most recent event, The Lunyu 論語 and Its Neighbors, brought together 6 scholars from different fields to explore the textual history of the Lunyu in time and space. The recording can be found here

She is the recipient of the Chiang Ching-kuo Doctoral Fellowship for the academic year 2020/2021, and of the research grant from the 漢學研究中心 in Taiwan for Spring 2021. Previously, she was a visiting scholar at Fudan University's 复旦大学 Center of Research for Excavated Sources and Palaeography upon receiving the 2019/2020 Confucius Institute Joint Research PhD Fellowship.  

Maddalena also collaborates with the Center for Neuroscience and Society to foster a dialogue between cognitive sciences and humanities; she obtained the Certificate for Teaching from the Penn Center for Teaching and Learning. She has been awarded the Summer 2019 Luce/ACLS Pre-dissertation Summer Travel Grant, the EALC Departmental Fellowship for summer research (Summer 2018; Summer 2019), and the uPenn GAPSA Travel Research Grant (summer 2017). During Spring 2019, she has been invited to workshops about the grammar of the Zuozhuan 左傳 (NYC), authorship in ancient cultures (Beijing), and language evolution in Ancient Chinese texts (Oxford University). Prior to her arrival at Penn, Maddalena received her MA degree at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, after working as an exchange student at Peking University and Leiden University.


Office Hours
by appointment

University of Pennsylvania, Dept. East Asia Languages and Civilizations

09/2016 – present. PhD program, early China major (intellectual history, paleography, philology)

(Candidacy exams: intellectual history, paleography, cognitive sciences and humanities)

2018 Master of Arts, East Asian Humanities

Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy

2016 MA in Chinese Language and Culture, 110/110 summa cum laude

2013 BA in Chinese Language and Culture

Exchange study experience

2019/2020 Fudan University, Shanghai, China 

Spring 2015 Leiden University, the Netherlands (International Exchange Student, Erasmus Scholarship) 

Fall 2014 Peking University, China (International Exchange Student, Ca’ Foscari University Overseas program scholarship)

Fall 2012 Huaqiao Foreign Languages Institute, China (International Exchange Student, Ca’ Foscari University Overseas program scholarship

Fall 2011 Capital Normal University, Beijing, China (language and literature) 


Research Interests

Early Chinese intellectual history, philology, philosophy, paleography, Old Chinese reconstructions, art history. 

Courses Taught

Fall 2020, Teaching fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Introduction to Chinese Civilization online teaching

Spring 2019, Teaching fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, The age of Samurai

Fall 2018, Teaching fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Introduction to Chinese Civilization

Spring 2018, Teaching fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Introduction to Japanese Civilization

Fall 2017, Teaching fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Introduction to Chinese Civilization

Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Teaching fellow at Ca’ Foscari University, Venice; modern and classical Chinese

Selected Publications

Establishing the text of the Odes. A First Look at the Anhui University Bamboo Manuscript. Co-authored with Dr. Adam D. Smith. Accepted by BSOAS. Forthcoming 2021. 

Forthcoming 2021 “Baoshan 包山” and “Hanfeizi 韩非子” entires in Wiley’s new Encyclopedia of Ancient History: Asia and Africa. Accepted. 

2020 editorial review and revision for second edition of A Source Book of Ancient Chinese Bronze Inscriptions. C. Cook and P. R. Goldin eds. Society for the Study of Early China, 2016 (updating bibliography; supervising editing; collaboration with translators).

2018 “Mohism”, Database of Religious History, Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia. DOI 10.14288/1.0385889; “An idea of Self in the Zhuangzi”, in Hanna N. Li and Gina van der Ling, eds., Proceedings of the Rombouts Graduate Conference: ‘Image’, Leiden: Stichting Shilin

Work in Progress 

Co-author with Prof. Liu Xiaogan 劉笑敢 of “The concept of ziran 自然 in the Daodejing”, to appear in the Dao Companion to the Philosophy of the Daodejing (Brill, expected to be published September 2021) – in progress.

Stimulation and potentiality of human nature in early China. Work in progress. 

History and Fiction: the Tsinghua Fu Yue zhi ming 傅說之命 and the formation of the Shangshu 尚書. Work in progress.


The Digital Orientalist 2020/2021

Member of the Early Text Culture (Oxford University); MLA association (2019; 2021) 

American Oriental Society (member for 2019)