With papers by Reiko Abe Auestad on Tsushima Yuko, Kirsten Cather on Dazai Osamu, and Shimamura Teru on Shiga Naoya, this panel explores methods of making the author matter that far exceed the once dominant division between "sakka-ron" and "sakuhinron." J. Keith Vincent will serve as discussant.
In 2017 Roland Barthes' famous essay "The Death of the Author" turns 50. After decades of work inspired by Barthes' intervention, the once god-like figure of the canonical author has been cut down to size and few scholars need convincing of the dangers of reductively biographical criticism. Yet critics in recent years have called for new methods of reading that enable a more seamless and productive weaving together of the biographical author with close textual and formal reading, as well as social network analysis; what Hoyt Long, in his book on the author Miyazawa Kenji, calls "seeing the literary forest through the single tree." This panel explores new methods of making the author matter that far exceed the sterile division between "sakka-ron" and "sakuhinron" that once dominated literary study in Japan. Reiko Abe Auestad's paper finds in Tsushima Yūko's novels an ethical strategy that intensifies readers' relations to characters in a way that depends for its ethical force on the readers' knowledge of Tsushima's own life. Kirsten Cather engages the work of Tsushima's father, Dazai Osamu, to ask what happens when the "promise of autobiographical literary criticism" meets an author whose work was as much about his death as his life. Finally, Shimamura Teru reads three stories by Shiga Naoya in which he finds not only a reflection of the author's self, but a deeper layer containing signs and portents that seem to derive from an archaic Japanese past. It is in these deeper layers, Shimamura argues, that we can glimpse a connection with the divine in the authorial image of Shiga, the so-called God of Novels. J. Keith Vincent will serve as discussant and will frame the panel with short remarks on the recent "rebirth of the author" in Japan, in the form of an android version of canonical author Natsume Sōseki, whose uncanny appearance and lifelike facial expressions remind readers in Japan, and elsewhere, that 150 years after his birth, this author is far from dead.