Assistant Professor


Ph.D., Japnaese Literature, Columbia University
M.A., Thai Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.A., Chinese Literature, Harvard University

Regional and Thematic Interests

East Asia
Literature and the Arts

Research Interests

Early modern Japanese literature; comparative poetry and poetics; gender and literature; economics and literary form


David Atherton received his BA in East Asian Studies (Chinese literature) from Harvard University, an MA in Thai literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia University. His doctoral dissertation, "Valences of Vengeance: The Moral Imagination of Early Modern Japanese Vendetta Fiction," examines the massive body of popular revenge fiction of the Edo period (1600-1867) -- a time when it was legal, within certain limits, to take blood revenge for the death of a senior family member. Besides revising the dissertation for publication, he is currently working on a project concerning the massive poetic performances of the 17th century writer Ihara Saikaku, and another that examines the relationship between early modern Japanese economics and literary form. He is always fascinated by the question of what poetry is, how it works, and how it comes to mean things across times and culture, and he maintains an avid interest in the poetics and literary culture of premodern Southeast Asia (as well as Japan).

Selected Publications

“Samurai as Method in the Vendetta Fiction of Ihara Saikaku,” in Daniel Struve, ed., Représentations des guerriers dans le Japon de l’époque d’Edo (XVIIe), Paris: Riveneuve Editions. Forthcoming, 2016.

“Amerika ni okeru yakazu haikai kenkyū no kanōsei” (The Potential of “Arrow-Shooting Haikai” Research in America), in Shinohara Susumu and Nakajima Takashi, eds., Kotoba no majutsushi Saikaku: yakazu haikai saikō. Tokyo: Hitsuji shobō. Forthcoming, 2016.

“Gurobaraizēshon no naka no Saikaku: Amerika gasshūkoku ni okeru Saikaku kenkyū” (Saikaku in the Midst of Globalization: Saikaku Studies in the United States), in Hara Michio, Kawai Masumi, and Kurakazu Masae, eds,. Saikaku to ukiyo-zōshi kenkyū Vol. 5: Geinō. Tokyo: Kasama shoin. June, 2011.