Project Description


I teach Japanese literature and cultural history, with particular focus on prose fiction, poetry, performative genres (such as storytelling and theater), and visual culture. I am currently interested in the relationship of classical and medieval cultures to early modern and contemporary cultures, looking at issues of gender, manuscript culture, print capitalism, performance and media. My most recent book, Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons, explored the cultural construction of nature and the environment across a wide spectrum of literature, media, and visual arts from the ancient period to the modern. I am finishing a book called Media, Performance, and Popular Culture: De-Centering Japanese Literature, which recontextualizes Japanese literature in a broader comparative context, focusing on the role of material culture, media, orality, and performance.

I have long been engaged in bringing new approaches to the study of Japanese literary culture. This has resulted in Japanese Literature and Literary Theory (Nihon bungaku kara no hihyo riron, Kasama shoin, 2009, edited with Fujii Sadakazu and Matsui Kenji) and New Horizons in Japanese Literary Studies (Bensei Publishing, 2009), both of which explore new issues and methodologies in the study of print and literary culture. I also edited Food in Japanese Literature (Shibundo, 2008), Overseas Studies on The Tale of Genji (Ofu, 2008) and Envisioning The Tale of Genji: Media, Gender, and Cultural Production (Columbia University Press, 2008). The latter two books analyze the impact of The Tale of Genji on Japanese cultural history in multiple genres and historical periods.

I have translated and edited a number of volumes on Japanese literature. These include Classical Japanese Literature, An Anthology: Beginnings to 1600(Columbia University Press, 2006), Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900 (Columbia University Press, 2002; abridged edition, 2008), The Tales of the Heike (Columbia University Press, 2006, paperback 2008), and most recently The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales (Columbia University Press, 2010), a collection of setsuwa (anecdotal literature).

I am also deeply involved with the history of Japanese language and pedagogical needs and have written Classical Japanese Reader and Essential Dictionary (2007) and Classical Japanese: A Grammar (Columbia University Press, 2005).

Previous books include Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashô (Stanford University Press, 1998) and The Bridge of Dreams: A Poetics of the Tale of Genji (Stanford University Press, 1987). I am also co-editor with Tomi Suzuki of Inventing the Classics: Modernity, National Identity, and Japanese Literature (Stanford University Press, 2001).

Professor Shirane received his BA from Columbia College (1974) and his PhD from Columbia University (1983). He is the recipient of Fulbright, Japan Foundation, SSRC, NEH grants, and has been awarded the Kadokawa Genyoshi Prize, Ishida Hakyo Prize, and most recently the Ueno Satsuki Memorial prize (2010) for outstanding research on Japanese culture.

Professor Shirane is presently the Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.

Professor’s Shirane’s personal website

Office: 420 Kent
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Phone: (212) 854-5031