Professor Swartz is the author of Reading Tao Yuanming: Shifting Paradigms of Historical Reception (427-1900) (Harvard University Asia Center, 2008), which critically examines readings of both Tao and his oeuvre over a fifteen-hundred year span. This study shows that the construction of Tao Yuanming as one of China’s greatest cultural icons was a collective and cumulative process, driven by a centuries-long conversation centered on three categories that lay at the heart of literati culture—reclusion, personality, and poetry— a conversation in which varying readings of Tao’s life and works were informed by changing aesthetic and moral concerns and by the development of new hermeneutical tools and critical lexicons. Reading Tao Yuanming has been translated into Chinese: the traditional Chinese character edition was published by Linking Press (Taipei) in 2014 and the simplified Chinese character edition is forthcoming from Zhonghua shuju (Beijing).
She is also the principal editor of Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook (Columbia University Press, 2014). The first of its kind, this volumepresents a broadly-based selection of important texts from this formative period in the disciplines of literature, historiography, art history, and religion. It aims to provide a new organization of texts and new ways of conceptualizing the period, making available many texts for the first time in English, along with critical scholarship written by experts on the various subjects. Early Medieval China was named "Best Reference Title" by Library Journal in March 2015.
Professor Swartz's current book project, whose working title is Reading Philosophy, Writing Poetry: Intertextual Modes of Making Meaning in Early Medieval China, examines how early medieval poets quoted from a set of philosophical classics, the so-called “three mysterious” texts (Classic of Changes, Laozi, and Zhuangzi). This project tackles a number of crucial questions that pertain to the relation between writing and the past in the context of allusion and quotation as well as that between readability and iterability (capacity for repetition, particularly as citation). In the Chinese poetic tradition, where writing was deeply embedded in consensus vocabularies of responses to the outer world, the goal of the poet was not only to learn this repertoire of responsiveness but also to stretch and build on it. Intertextuality, a principle of writing, constituted equally a mode of reading: reading and writing well meant demonstrating a command of the literary tradition and cultural codes via the fundamentally intertextual practices of allusion and quotation. This project critically analyzes and conceptualizes allusion and quotation, which tend to be skimmed over as mere literary conventions, in order to illuminate traditional Chinese assumptions of writing and reading.