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Literature in Japanese, 1989-2019 (2020- )

literature in Japanese.png

Lead Investigator: Angela Yiu (03-3238-4030, a-yiu[at]



FLA faculty

  • Shion Kono (s-kono[at]

  • Matthew Strecher (m-strecher[at]

  • Mathew Thompson (masurao[at]

GPGS PhD student

  • Munia Hweidi, Ph.D. candidate, ABD (zemonia[at]

Outside Sophia participants

  • Justyna Kasza, Seinan Gakuin University (2020~) (

  • Kyoko Kurita, Pomona College (kkurita[at]

  • Miya Mizuta, USC (mizuta[at]

  • Kevin Niehaus, Stanford University, Ph.D. candidate, ABD (kniehau[at]

  • Daniel O’Neill, UC Berkeley (dconeill[at]

  • Barbara Thornbury, Temple University, USA (bthor[at]

(Also sounding out scholars at Western Michigan University, LMU (Munich), Middlebury College, etc.)


Goals and Purposes of Research Unit

This is a book project that aims at producing an anthology in English of critical essays on Literature in Japanese, 1989-2019, to be published in the form of a book through a university press. It will serve as a handbook for scholars, students, and non-specialists interested in the note-worthy literature and significant changes in Japanese language and writing in the past thirty years, organized by research and teaching modules. Instead of calling this great variety of literary production Heisei literature, this project attempts to trace the shades of meaning and transformation in a wide range of works that helps us better understand an ambiguous age and its place in a globalized world.  Some working modules include:


Language and translation: This rubric explores the translation of the past in contemporary Japanese literature; the development of post-colonial Nihongo bungagku (Japanese-language literature); the language of translation, linguistic experiments; cross-border writing; blurring of fiction and non-fiction; plurilingual writing; etc. Suggested topics of research include:

-An ecology of Japanese literature in translation: global audience, world literature, and the process of writing literature in Japanese

-Nihongo bungaku: new literary topography by plurilingual writers from the 1990s

-The “Haruki phenomenon”: the game-changing shift from “literature” to “storytelling”


Time: This rubric explores memory and trauma; hunting for the past: nostalgia, antiquarianism, classicism; multiple timelines; SF and time travel, etc. Suggested topics of research include:

-Pre-Modern Mirrors: Translating the Past in Contemporary Japanese Literature

-Mobility through time, memory, and space in Asabuki Mariko’s contemporary fiction


Space: This rubric explores utopias, dystopias, and heterotopias; nature poetry; urban space; peripheral realisms, representation of aesthetics; etc. Suggested topics include:

-Modes of living and thinking in KonMari’s (Kondō Marie) books of “life-changing” tidying up

-A woman’s heterotopia: Oyamada Hiroko’s world of fantastical flowers and faunas

-Tohoku poetry and fiction

-Representations of a hidden Tokyo


Environment: This rubric explores eco-criticism, politics and environmental issues in post-trauma Japan; environment and post-humanity; etc. Suggested topics include:

-Through the water mirror of Amazoko in Ishimure Michiko’s Lake of Heaven

-post-quake literature


Body: This rubric explores subjection and the critique of violence; girl culture; queer literature; embodiment and the animal; etc. Suggested topics include:

-Animal stories in post 3.11 Japan

-Queer literature and reclaiming sexual difference


Media: This rubric explores film; digitalization and effects of new media; media mix and seriality; the effect of the media on literary production; etc. Suggested topics include:

-The films of Kore’eda Hirokazu, Kawase Naomi, Shinkai Makoto, etc.

-the cultural role of literary prizes


In exploring these working modules and others, this project will consider a wide range of authors (Japanese and non-Japanese nationals writing in Japanese) and include a large selection of translated and yet-to-be translated works to stimulate pedagogical and scholarly engagements. This project will also consider including a translation component to accompany the critical essays. What this project hopes to accomplish is the publication of a readable, useful, and thought-provoking handbook of critical essays (and translation) that will serve as a link to existing scholarship in Japanese literature leading to 1989 and to anticipate future development in literature in Japanese after 2019.


image from Pexels by Abby Chung

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