Xinxin Zhao

Proceedings opened: 31 January 2019
Dissertation Colloquium: 7 June 2019


Biographical information:

  • 2003-2006: Teaching Assistant at the English Department of Kunmming University of Science and Technology, Yunnan, China
  • 2006-2008: MA study at English Department of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangdong, China. Graduated with a distinguished MA thesis award.
  • 2008-2014: Lecturer at English department of Kunming University of Science and Technology, Yunnan, China
  • 2014-2016: Language teacher at Blekinge Tekniska Högskola (Blekinge Institute of Technology), Karlskrona, Sweden
  • Since February 2016: PhD student and teaching assistant at the DFG Research Training Group 1808: Ambiguity – Production and Perception at Tübingen University


Research interests:

  • Iconicity
  • Modernist fiction (or formally self-conscious novels)
  • Literary linguistics / stylistics
  • Ambiguity



Form is meaning: An iconic reading of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

As one of most intensely studied literary work, Heart of Darkness (HD for short) has been inviting diversified and even contradictory readings for more than one hundred years. This research is initiated and motivated by the question: “why can the same work arouse so many conflicting readings?” Instead of digging out what it means, this research will focus on how it means. HD is a self-referential tale told by self-conscious story-tellers. Conrad’s skepticism in language’s expressiveness and in ascertainable truths makes HD an ideal case for iconicity and ambiguity study. Through iconicity, the elusive, invisible meaning is surfaced by visible, formal patterns and strategies on every level of literary language, from punctuation to lexicon, from syntax to narrative structure. With ambiguity, the contradictory opposites can both be true at the same time, the known and the unknown, the presence and the absence, the self-constitution and the self-cancellation. The two tentative goals this research tries to achieve are: one, a detailed and systematic formal description and textual analysis could be meaningful enough be to an independent reading, because HD is visual but not revealing anything other than itself; two, any side-choosing could lead to a misreading of this work, because the inherent ambiguity calls for a choice, yet makes the choice impossible.





  • Zhao, Xinxin (forthcoming 2019). "Striving for Something with/without Substance." L'Époque Conradienne 42. Limoges: Presses universitaires de Limoges.
  • Zhao, Xinxin (accepted for publication). "Heart without ‘THE’: An iconic reading of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness." TBA. (Iconicity in Literature and Language 17). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Zhao, Xinxin (2011). "How iconicity works in construction the fictional world view in Farewell to Arms" Semblance and Signification. Hgg. Pascal Michelucci, Olga Fischer und Christina Ljungberg. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 211-32.


  • Zhao, Xinxin (2011). "R.K. Narayan’s 'The Doctor’s Words' and 'Selvi'." Master 114: 184-90.
  • Zhao, Xinxin (2009). "Arundhati Roy's 'The Greater Common Good.'" Master 94: 35-49.



  • 2008-2014 (at Kunming University of Science and Technology, Yunnan, China):
    • Lecture for undergraduate English Majors: 'Intensive reading'
    • Workshops: English/Chinese translation
  • 2014-2016 (at Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, Karlskrona, Sweden):
    • Credit course (on campus and online): Chinese Introduction I and II, Basic Chinese