Global Asia Lecture Series: Writing Violence

Event description

  • Academic events
  • Free
  • Open to the public

This lecture is made possible through a generous funding from Aaron Stephen Moore Endowment.

As part of ASU's commitment to global engagement, sustainability and future-oriented knowledge and research, the Asia Center at the Arizona State University is organizing a series of virtual lectures for the 2023-2024 academic year on the theme of "Global Asia in a Multipolar World." This virtual lecture series highlights research from prominent scholars in an array of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and beyond, broadly centered on Inter-Asian networks and flows of ideas, peoples and texts across national and linguistic borders.

This is the fifth lecture in our series, and it will be provided by Dr. David Atherton, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University. This talk is titled "The Problem, Promise, and Politics of Form in Early Modern Japanese Literature." Please read the full abstract below.

Edo-period Japan was a golden age for commercial literature. A host of new narrative genres cast their gaze across the social landscape, probed the realms of history and the fantastic, and breathed new life into literary tradition. But, how to understand the politics of this body of literature remains contested, in part because the defining characteristics of much early modern fiction—formulaicness, reuse of narratives, stock characters, linguistic and intertextual play, and heavy allusion to literary canon — can seem to hold social and political realities at arm’s length.

My book,  "Writing Violence: The Politics of Form in Early Modern Japanese Literature," offers a new approach to understanding the relationship between the challenging formal features of early modern popular literature and the world beyond its pages. Focusing on depictions of violence—one of the most fraught topics for a peaceful polity ruled over by warriors — I connect concepts of form and formalization across the aesthetic and social spheres. I show how the formal features of early modern literature had the potential to alter the perception of time and space, make social and economic forces visible, defamiliarize conventions, give voice to the socially peripheral and reshape the contours of community.

Through careful readings of works by the major writers Asai Ryōi, Ihara Saikaku, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Ueda Akinari, and Santō Kyōden, Writing Violence reveals the essential role of literary form in constructing the world — and in seeing it anew.

Global Asia Atherton Event Flyer

Additional information

Event contact

Chan Lwin

Friday, April 12, 2024


1:00 pm2:00 pm (MST)


Durham 240 and Zoom