Program in Japanese Literature and Visual Culture at Columbia University
The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University has long been known for its distinction in the fields of Japanese literature and culture, and it continues to produce many leading scholars of literature, history, and visual culture.
The program has a number of prominent strengths and characteristics. First of all, it is outstanding both in modern and in premodern studies, enabling the students to receive extensive training both linguistically and across different periods and disciplines.
The program is well known for its language training, teaching various levels and styles, from advanced modern Japanese to classical Japanese, kanbun, and calligraphic script, all of which is supplemented by strong programs in Chinese and Korean.
The program promotes critical methodologies and interdisciplinary or comparative studies, combining, for example, literature with film, visual culture, gender studies, cultural history, Buddhist studies, and so forth, often working across one or more countries in Asia. Students frequently work simultaneously with professors in other programs and fields.
Professors Haruo Shirane and David Lurie are the primary teachers/scholars in the fields of early, Heian, medieval, and Edo studies, with particular strengths in early history and literature, writing systems and linguistic thought, Heian literature, medieval narratives, and Edo literature and popular culture. They are complemented by Professor Michael Como, Bernard Faure, and Max Moerman, who specialize in Japanese religion, particularly Shinto, Buddhism, and popular religions. Professor Matthew McKelway, an expert in medieval and Edo painting and prints, also teaches many of our students.
Professors Paul Anderer and Tomi Suzuki are the main teachers/scholars in 19th and 20th century Japanese literature, with particular strengths in the modern fiction, literary and cultural criticism, intellectual history, film, and visual studies. They are joined by Professor Hikari Hori, who specializes in film, gender studies, and popular culture. Also teaching various aspects of early modern and modern cultural and social intellectual history are Professors Carol Gluck, Greg Pflugfelder, and Kim Brandt. Professor Jonathan Reynolds is an expert in modern Japanese art history and visual culture and Professor Marilyn Ivy teaches anthropology of modern Japan. For more detail, please see the faculty profile for each professor.
The program has official ties with a number of leading universities and research institutes in Japan, including the National Institute for Japanese Literature, Waseda University, and the University of Tokyo. The department has a MA double-degree program with Waseda that enables graduate students to get a MA in Japanese literature at Waseda while completing the PhD at Columbia. These Japanese institutions send leading Japanese scholars to teach at Columbia on a regular basis and cosponsor joint workshops and symposia.
The Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, affiliated with the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, regularly sponsors lectures, workshops, performances, and other events that bring prominent scholars, artists, musicians, and other cultural figures to campus from elsewhere in North America, Europe, Japan, and Asia.
With the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University has one of the strongest library collections in the world for Japanese literature and culture. It has particularly extensive holdings of books and journals in premodern and modern literature, history, and religion. Its Makino Mamoru Collection on the History of East Asian Film is an important resource for scholarship not only on cinema and popular culture, but also on many other aspects of modern Japanese history.
Our location in New York City also creates close connections to the Japan Society, Asia Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and New York Public Library, as well as providing exposure to a wide variety of Japan-related film screenings, gallery shows, talks by writers, and live performances by both traditional and contemporary artists throughout the year.
The PhD students in the program are noted for their diversity of interests and expertise and come from all over the world. Please see the list of recent graduates and their dissertation topics as well as the current PhD student profiles. The PhD program provides full funding (covering both tuition and stipend) for five years. The thriving MA program has trained many students to go on to PhD programs and to professional careers. Please contact the faculty by email (list on the faculty profiles) to learn more about the program.
Japanese Literature and Culture Faculty
MACK PROFESSOR OF HUMANITIES; PROFESSOR OF JAPANESE LITERATURE
Paul Anderer holds degrees from Michigan (BA ’71), Chicago (MA ’72), and Yale (Ph.D. ’79). He joined the Columbia faculty in 1980. […]
Early Modern, Film and Visual Culture, Japan, Japanese Lit + Vis Culture, Literature, Medieval, Modern
SHINCHO PROFESSOR OF JAPANESE LITERATURE
Haruo Shirane’s fields of interest are Japanese literature, visual culture, and cultural history, with particular focus on intertextuality and language, text/image relations, popular and elite […]
Current PhD Students
Matthieu Felt began working on premodern Japanese literature at Columbia in 2010. After finishing his undergraduate program at the University of Chicago, he taught junior high school English for four years on the island of Tanegashima, Kagoshima prefecture. He also worked for several years in IT at the University of Chicago. He is primarily interested in the Nihon Shoki and other imperial histories.
Tom entered the PhD program in Japanese Literature at Columbia in 2009. He is interested broadly in the intersection between linguistic form and literary style, including topics ranging from narratology and poetics to natural language change and cognitive theories of literature. He hopes to use these perspectives to study the literary transformations that took place between the Edo and Meiji periods. After receiving his BS in Mathematics from Stanford University in 2006, Tom spent the interim working in San Francisco’s video game industry, and he maintains a furtive interest in the incipient field of game design theory and criticism.
Phuong is a Ph.D. candidate in Japanese literature with a primary interest in Heian literature and popular culture. Prior to coming to Columbia, Phuong received her B.A. degree in Astrophysics and Japanese Language and Literature from Wellesley College.
Pau Pitarch received a BA in Literary Theory and Comparative Literature from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain) and an MA in Language and Information Sciences from the University of Tokyo (Japan). His MA thesis dealt with the Taisho era writings of Sato Haruo and their development of European Aestheticism. Pau joined the Japanese Literature PhD program at Columbia University in 2009, to work on early 20th C narrative and criticism. He is interested in the connections between aesthetics and scientific discourse and the uses of “illness” as a literary and ideological trope.
A native from Berlin, Daniel received his M.A. in Japanese Studies, Chinese Studies and German Literature from the University of Heidelberg (2006). His dissertation project with the tentative title “Entangled Literacies: Dynamics of Sino-Japanese Intertextuality and Cultural Translation from the 10th to the Late 19th Century” examines and compares textual “sites” — literary anthologies from the Heian, Edo and Meiji periods — in which Chinese (kan) and Japanese (wa) styles, genres and poetic discourses intersect and/or merge. His broader interests also include Western (esp. German and French) literature as well as literary/aesthetic theory and philosophy.
During a ten-year stay in Japan, I obtained my first MA (2009) in Japanese literature at Kyoto University under the tutelage of Dr. Masao Otani. Attracted by the broad historical approach employed by Dr. Mikael Adolphson, I then completed a second MA (2013) at the University of Alberta. Much of my research thus far has been devoted to comparative analysis of premodern Chinese and Japanese literature, especially in the field of poetry and poetic theory. I am curious about the use of metaphorical language as a means of constructing alternate, mutually provocative narratives or literary realities. Exploring interactions between poetry and prose, kanbun and wabun, historical diaries and fantastical tales reveals a multilayered patchwork of disjunctive paradigms that brings together seemingly disparate genres and scholastic disciplines.
Josh studied English literature for two years at Texas Tech University before withdrawing to pursue undergraduate studies in Japan. After one year of language courses, he entered the University of Tokyo and went on to graduate with a BA in Contemporary Literary Studies in 2012. Josh’s senior thesis examined the use of violence in works by Cormac McCarthy and Kenji Nakagami. After returning to his native Texas, Josh worked for nearly two years as a freelance Japanese translator. His research interests include the development of surrealism in postwar Japanese narratives, Japanese literature written by non-Japanese authors, and comparative approaches to contemporary works.
Yiwen is a Ph.D. student in classical Japanese literature. She received her B.A. in Chinese Literature from Fudan University, Shanghai (2008), M.A. in Japanese Literature from Columbia (2011), and M.A. in Chinese Literature from University of Wisconsin-Madison (2012). Her fields of interest include Japanese and Chinese literature, with particular focus on medieval narrative prose. She hopes to examine the common ground and shared nuances of the relevant accounts in China and Japan by paying close heed to their original historical milieu, even while tracing the religious context and visual representations of them. Currently she is conducting research on the literary and visual analyses of the netherworld and influential death-related icons in the early Japanese setsuwa collections from the Nara through the medieval period.
Rachel Staum received her B.A. in East Asian Studies from Harvard College (2009). Before coming to Columbia, she worked for the JET Program as a Coordinator for International Relations in Takaoka, Japan. In 2011, she entered Columbia’a Japanese Literature Ph.D. program. She is currently researching stories about women from other worlds in Japanese literature, focusing on otogizoshi (late medieval popular fiction), as well as the reception and rewriting of these stories in different genres across time.
Ariel Stilerman is a PhD cadidate in premodern Japanese literature. His dissertation, under the tentative title, “Lessons in Poetry: Pedagogy, High-Culture, and Social Mobility in Medieval Japan”, looks at post-classical waka as an educational enterprise, focusing on the introduction of a formal pedagogical contract between teacher and disciple, the development of “waka vignettes” (waka setsuwa) as a teaching tool in poetic treatises, the creation of a discourse on the wondrous powers of waka (katoku), and the use of poetry to teach other disciplines (kyokunka) like kemari and chanoyu.
Before coming to Columbia, Ariel studied Psychoanalysis and Clinical Therapy at the University of Buenos Aires (2002), where he also taught Statistics (2003-4). He trained in the Tea Ceremony at Urasenke Konnichian, Kyoto (2006-7), and completed MA degrees in Japanese Studies and Literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London, 2006) and at Waseda University (2012). Ariel is currently working on the first direct translation of Genji monogatari into Spanish; he made public the first chapter in the summer of 2013. He sailed competitively while in college and still dreams of one day crossing the Atlantic ocean under sail.
Shiho Takai received her B.A. from University of Tokyo (2004) in British Area Studies and her M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis (2006) in Japanese Literature before joining the Ph.D. program at Columbia University. Her general research interests include gender, genre, performance, reception, supernaturals, censorship, and the formation of cultural legends and heroes. She is now working on her dissertation project on the Edo period theater and law, especially representation of criminal women in sewamono jÅruri puppet plays and kabuki, and their relation to the contemporary socio-legal establishment.
Tyler received his B.A. in Japanese Studies from Middlebury College (2008), following which he spent a year working as a translator in Hiroshima, Japan. He has since taught Japanese language in Massachusetts and in his native Mississippi. Tyler has worked on the intersection of radical politics and art that characterized the emerging agrarian and proletarian literature movements of the Taishō period. An avid hiker who loves traveling the Japanese countryside, Tyler ultimately hopes to explore new critical approaches to rural and regional literature to gain insight into the fascinating relationship between country and city in 20th century Japan.
Despite hailing from Upstate New York, Charles Woolley headed north to receive his B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto (2007), after the completion of which he was briefly repatriated before being granted the opportunity to research the development, establishment and institutionalization of the ‘family restaurant’ format within popular culinary culture in Japan under the auspices of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program (2007-2008). In 2008, he was admitted to Columbia’s Ph.D. program in Japanese Literature where he continues to explore his interests in the processes of trans-contextual translation and adaptation between the ‘West’ and Japan and their roles in the construction and elaboration of new linguistic and discursive idioms in the early twentieth century.
Chi is a PhD student in Japanese Literature, with interests broadly centered on the construction of China in the Japanese literary and cultural imagination, including the transformation of Chinese philosophical and religious writings in Japanese literature and the use of different genres in the depiction of Chinese images, and the ways in which different Japanese genres bonded with specific Chinese “sources” or genres, mostly from the Heian through the medieval period. She is also interested in examining the Edo period in which a number of earlier threads of Japanese cultural and discursive constructions of China were first brought together and emerged within a range of new forms of writing and texts. Chi received her B.A. in Japanese Language from Tsinghua University, Beijing before joining Columbia.
Recent PhD Alumni
David was a Ph.D. candidate in premodern Japanese literature. He studied Chinese literature for his B.A. at Harvard University (2000) and completed an M.A. in classical Thai literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2006). In between, he studied in Beijing, taught English in rural Japan, and attended Chiang Mai University. His dissertation (titled “Performance and Identity in the Writing, Life, and Legacy of Ihara Saikaku”) examined the 17th century poet/playwright/author Saikaku as a figure whose work and life were both intimately bound up with performance, theatricality, and the embodiment of constantly shifting identities–so much so that Saikaku himself was transformed into a contested fictional character immediately after his death. In the dissertation, David examined the roles of authorship, popular genres, and celebrity as they interacted with broader discourses of identity formation and representation in late 17th century Japan. David finds the topic of “performed identity” particularly relevant to this profile, in which he is writing about himself in the third person.
Jennifer was a Ph.D. candidate in premodern Japanese literature, with interests centered chronologically on the Heian period and including kanbun literature, the reception of Chinese texts and systems of knowledge, and the creative or playful literary juxtaposition of wabun and kanbun styles. She is also interested (even) more broadly in premodern literacies and models for literary education, and in the comparative history of linguistic thought and scholarship. Her dissertation project examined the texts and practices of literary education in premodern Japan and what they revealed about the relationship between kanbun and wabun styles; by reconstructing how literati learned to create and appreciate literature, it explored the diversity of premodern Japanese literary culture and the role of kanbun as a literary language with both translocal and local, culturally-embedded aspects.
Nan has lived in Beijing, Tokyo, California before coming to New York City for graduate school. She received her B.S. in Mathematics from Stanford University and M.S. in Economics and Finance from Columbia Business School. Her dissertation project focuses on Japanese adaptations of Chinese prose narratives, from late medieval to early modern period, particularly adaptations of Ming supernatural tales. This thesis explores issues related to vernacularization movement, cultural transformation and worldviews reflected in genre and linguistic development in Japan and China.
Christina Yi graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Japanese Language & Literature. Shortly after graduation, she left for Japan on the JET Program, working as a Coordinator for International Relations at Hamamatsu City Hall. She entered the Japanese Literature Ph.D. program at Columbia in 2007. Her research focuses on the rise of Japanese-language literature by Korean colonial subjects during the 1930s and 1940s and its subsequent impact on discourse regarding “national” and “ethnic minority” literature in postwar Japan and Korea. She is particularly interested in the relationship between nihongo bungaku (Japanese-language literature) and kokubungaku (Japanese national literature) vis-a -vis the canonization(s) of zainichi Korean literature(s).
Recent PhD Graduates in Japanese Literature
|Christina Yi. 2013. “Fissured Languages of Empire: Gender, Ethnicity, and Literature in Japan and Korea, 1930s–1950s.” University of British Columbia, Canada.
David Atherton. 2013. “Valences of Vengeance: The Moral Imagination of Early Modern Japanese Vendetta Fiction.” University of Colorado.
Jennifer Guest. 2013. “Primers, Commentaries, and Kanbun Literacy in Japanese Literary Culture, 950-1250.” Oxford University, UK.
Nan Hartmann. 2013. “Adaptation of Chinese Narratives of the Supernatural in Early Modern Japanese Fiction: Issues in Language, Translation, and Cultural Transfer.” Earlham College.
Gian Piero Persiani. 2012. “Mid-Heian Waka: Anatomy of a Cultural Phenomenon.” National Institute for Japanese Literature, Japan.
Hitomi Yoshio. 2012. “Envisioning Women Writers: Female Authorship and the Cultures of Publishing and Translation in Early 20th Century Japan.” Florida International University.
Nathan Shockey. 2012. “Literary Writing, Print Media, and Urban Space in Early 20th Century Japan.” Bard College.
Robert Tuck. 2012. “Masaoka Shiki and the Literature of Dialogue: Media, Sociality and Poetry in Meiji Japan.” University of Montana.
Saeko Shibayama. 2012. “The Convergence of the Ways: The Twilight of Early Chinese Literary Studies and the Rise of Waka Poetics in the Long Twelfth Century.” University of Hawaii.
Anri Yasuda. 2011. “Imaging the World: The Literature and Aesthetics of Mori Ogai, the Shirakaba School, and Akutagawa Ryunosuke.” George Washington University.
Satoko Naito 2010. “The Making of Murasaki Shikibu: Constructing Authorship, Gendering Readership, and Legitimizing The Tale of Genji.” University of Maryland.
Mathew Thompson 2009. “The Tales of Yoshitsune: A Study of Genre, Narrative Paradigms, and Cultural Memory in Medieval and Early Modern Japan.” Sophia University, Tokyo.
Satoko Shimazaki 2008. “Shadows of Jealousy: Nanboku’s Yotsuya kaidan and the Tradition of Female Ghosts in Japanese Culture.” University of Southern California.
Kerim Yasar. 2008. “Electrified Voices: Media Technology and Discourse in Modern Japan.” Ohio State University.
Michael Emmerich 2007. “Replacing The Text: Translation, Canonization, Censorship, and The Tale of Genji.” University of California, Los Angeles.
Scott Lineberger 2007. The Genesis of Haikai: Transforming the Japanese Poetic Tradition Through Parody, Defamiliarization, and Ambiguity.” Beloit College
Akiko Takeuchi 2007. “Ritual, Storytelling, and Zeami’s Reformation of Noh Drama: Issues in Representation and Performance.” Hosei University
Jack Stoneman 2006. “Constructing Saigyo: Poetry, Biography, and Medieval Reception.” Brigham Young University
Torquil Duthie 2005. “Poetry and Kingship in Ancient Japan.” UCLA
Christina Laffin 2005. “Women, Travel, and Cultural Production in Kamakura Japan: A Socio-Literary Analysis of Izayoi nikki and Towazugatari.” University of British Columbia
Jamie Newhard 2005. “Genre, Secrecy, and The Book: A History of Late Medieval and Early Modern Literary Scholarship on Ise Monogatari.” Washington University at St. Louis.
|Satoru Saito 2005. Allegories of Detective Fiction: Confession, Social Mobility, and the Modern Japanese Novel, 1880-1930.” Rutgers University
Anne Commons 2003. “The Canonization of Hitomaro: Paradigm of the Poet as God.” University of Alberta, Canada.
Peter Flueckiger 2003. “Poetry, Culture, and Social Harmony in Eighteenth Century Japanese Thought: The Sorai School and Its Critics.” Pomona College
Indra Levy 2002. “Sirens of the Western Shore: Westernesque Women and Translation in Modern Japanese Literature.” Stanford University
Jonathan Zwicker 2002. “Tears of Blood: Melodrama, The Novel, and the Social Imaginary in Nineteenth-Century Japan.” University of Michigan
Cheryl Crowley 2001. “Haikai Poet Yosa Buson and the Back to Basho Movement.” Emory University
Naomi Fukumori 2001. “Reading Makura no Soshi (Pillow Book) in Historical Perspective.” Ohio State University
David Lurie 2001. “The Origins of Writing in Early Japan: From the 1st to the 8th Century C.E.” Columbia University
Gustav Heldt 2000. “Composing Courtiers: Ki no Tsurayuki’s Poetic Visions of Gender, Writing, and Rituals at the Heian Court.” University of Virginia
James Keith Vincent 2000. “Writing Sexuality: Heteronormitivity, Homophobia, and the Homosocial Subject in Modern Japan.” Boston University
Pammy Eddinger 1999. “From Obsession to Deliverance: The Evolving Landscape of the Feminine Psyche in the Works of Enchi Fumiko.” Moorepark College
Christopher Hill 1999. “National History and the World of Nations: Writing Japan, France, and the United States, 1870-1900.” Yale University
David Bialock 1997. “Peripheries of Power: Voice, History and the Construction of Imperial and Sacred Space in the Tale of Heike and Other Medieval and Heian Historical Texts.” University of Southern California
John Carpenter 1997. “Fujiwara no Yukinari and the Development of Heian Court Calligraphy.” SOAS, London
Kevin Collins 1997. “Seizing Spirits: The Chinkon Ritual and Early Japanese Literature.” Wakayama University, Japan.
Seiji Lippit 1997. “Japanese Modernism and the Destruction of Literary Form: The Writings of Akutagawa, Yokomitsu, and Kawabata.” UCLA
Eve Zimmerman 1997. “The Language of Rebellion: Myth, Violence, and Identity in the Fiction of Nakagami Kenji.” Wellesley College
Peipei Qiu 1994. “Basho and the Dao : Zhuangzi and the transformation of Haikai.” Vassar College
Takashi Wakui 1994. “Prosody, Diction, and Lyricism in Modern Japanese Poetry.” Nagoya University
Joan Ericson 1993. “Hayashi Fumiko and Japanese Women’s Literature.” Colorado College
Steven Dodd 1993. “An Embracing Vision: Representation of the Countryside in Early 20th Century Japanese Literature.” School of Oriental and African Studies, London
Nina Cornyetz 1991.“Izumi Kyoka’s Speculum:Reflections on Medusa, Thanatos, and Eros.” New York University
Masaaki Kinugasa Hosei University
Publications by Recent Ph.D. Graduates in Japanese Literature
|Man’yōshū and the Imperial Imagination in Early Japan
Routledge, 2014. Point of Sale
|Chinese Comfort Women
Oxford University Press, 2014.
Point of Sale
|The Youth of Things
University of Hawaii Press, 2014. Point of Sale
Gustav Heldt (ed.)
Columbia University Press, 2014. Point of Sale
|The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature
Columbia University Press, 2013. Point of Sale
|Knowing the Amorous Man: A History of Scholarship on Tales of Ise
Harvard University Press, 2013. Point of Sale
|Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women
Christina Laffin University of Hawaii Press, 2013.
Point of Sale
|Detective Fiction and the Rise of the Japanese Novel, 1880-1930.
Harvard University Press, 2012.
Point of Sale
|Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.
Point of Sale
|Realms of Literacy: Early Japan and the History of Writing
Harvard University Press, 2011. Point of Sale
|Imagining Harmony: Poetry, Empathy, and Community in Mid-Tokugawa Confucianism and Nativism
Stanford University Press, 2010. Point of Sale
|The Pursuit of Harmony: Poetry and Power in Early Heian Japan
University of Hawaii Press, 2010. Point of Sale
|Hitomaro: Poet as God
Brill, 2009. Point of Sale
|National History and the World of Nations: Capital, State, and the Rhetoric of History in Japan, France, and the United States
Christopher L. Hill
Duke University Press, 2009. Point of Sale
|Out of the Alleyway
Harvard University Press, 2008. Point of Sale
|The Ethics and Aesthetics in Japanese Cinema and Literature
Routledge, 2008. Point of Sale
|Eccentric Spaces, Hidden Histories
Stanford University Press, 2007. Point of Sale
|Be a Woman
Joan E. Ericson
University of Hawaii Press, 2007. Point of Sale
|Sirens of the Western Shore: Westernesque Women and Translation in Modern Japanese Literature
Columbia University Press, 2006. Point of Sale
|Haikai Poet Yosa Buson and the Bashō Revival
Brill, 2006. Point of Sale
2005 and Earlier
|Basho and the Dao
University of Hawaii Press, 2005. Point of Sale
|Writing Home: Representations of the Native Place in Modern Japanese Literature
Harvard University Press, 2005. Point of Sale
|Topographies of Japanese Modernism
Columbia University Press, 2002. Point of Sale