Robert Joe Cutter is a native of Yuma, Arizona. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Arizona. In 1983, he received his doctorate from the University of Washington. From 1983 until 2005, he was a professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was founding director of the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University and is a past president of the American Oriental Society. His primary field of teaching and research is early medieval Chinese literature.