lectures +events

April 19

Haiku and the ‘Desire to Write’: on Masaoka Shiki and Marcel Proust

University of Chicago

Watch a video of this lecture here.

Masaoka Shiki and Marcel Proust spent the final years of their lives confined to their sick rooms with tuberculosis and asthma. Each was painfully aware of the shortness of his own life and the great stretches of time it would take to finish the work he had set out to do. As death approached, Shiki wrote thousands of haiku, the shortest of all poetic genres, while Proust completed a novel of three thousand pages. In this talk, I juxtapose Shiki and Proust; short and long. I discuss the haiku-like quality of some of Proust’s longest sentences, how Shiki used haiku to remember and relive his past, and how both showed in writing how, as Proust put it, “A change in the weather is sufficient to create the world and ourselves anew.” Finally, I explore the meaning of what Roland Barthes, writing about Proust and Shiki, called a “desire to write” that drove these writers breathlessly on to translate their short lives into something that would last.  


November 17

Proust and the Tale of Genji

SUNY Buffalo


November 5

Proust and the Tale of Genji

University of California, Berkeley


 Dennis Washburn, Dartmouth College; Marjorie Burge, University of Colorado Boulder; Brian Hurley, The University of Texas at Austin; Keith Vincent, Boston University

 Alan Tansman, UC Berkeley

 Center for Japanese Studies (CJS)

The eleventh-century Tale of Genji—sometimes (controversially) called the world’s first novel, always (uncontroversially) called a world masterpiece–will be the focus of a conversation joined by its most recent translator, Dennis Washburn (Dartmouth), and three scholars of Japanese and Comparative literature: Marjorie Burge (CU Boulder), Brian Hurley (UT Austin), and Keith Vincent (Boston University).

The conversation will range across topics such as: the history and challenges of Genji translation; beauty and sexuality in the tale; Genji and nativism; Genji and Proust; Genji and Bloomsbury; mapping world literature; teaching Genji.


Saturday, October 22


Haiku and the Novel

Presentation on a plenary panel at the Association for Literary Scholars, Critics, & Writers

with Dennis Washburn, Jyana Brown, and David Boyd

Yale University

ALSCW 2022 Conference


May 14

Flaming Creatures: Parker Tyler Reads the Tale of Genji

Presentation at the Association for Japanese Literature Studies on a panel organized by Brian Hurley.

With Matt Mewhinney and Patrick Carland.

In an archival photograph taken in October 1960, the modernist novelist, surrealist poet, and psychoanalytic film critic Parker Tyler sits facing the camera with his boyfriend the filmmaker Charles Boltenhouse in their tiny art-filled apartment in New York. On a half-open door between them, taking pride of place in the center of the photo, hangs a Japanese scroll painting of what looks to be the iconic figure of Murasaki Shikibu. Four years later, Tyler would write in the jacket of his copy of Arthur Waley’s translation of the Tale of Genji, “This shares with Proust’s novel…the very first place in my literary affections…about to be read again!”

As other papers on this panel discuss, the nineteen fifties and early sixties saw a surge of interest in Japanese literature in the United States. Much recent scholarship has cast this surge in broad geopolitical terms, exposing an ideological agenda at the origins of what would become Anglophone Japanese literary studies. But for individual readers, these books had other meanings and did others kinds of work.

In this paper I focus on what Arthur Waley’s Tale of Genji and Japanese literature more generally, could have meant for Parker Tyler, one especially brilliant queer reader in the years before Stonewall. As an early theorist of Hollywood movie stars, it is not surprising that Tyler would have been intrigued by Genji, whom he called “a mundane and a divine hero” and who emits light everywhere he goes. Sounding out further resonances between Waley’s Genji and essays by Tyler from the 1950s on Proust, Kafka, and the “scandalous sway of Mae West’s hips,” I speculate on the forms of aesthetic world making, Joycean mythopoetics, and fluid sexuality that Tyler may have found in the Genji and that may have appealed to other queer readers as well during some of the the most homophobic years in US history.


April 30

Gay Idolatry in Proust and Mann

WLL “Big Fat Books” Symposium on Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”

A video of this lecture and the whole symposium is available here.

Boston University


April  16

“Shiki’s Databases: How Shiki Made it New”

Keynote Lecture at East Asian Studies Grad Student Conference

The haiku poet Masaoka Shiki has a reputation as a radical and an iconoclast. In 1893, when he was only twenty-six, writing from his perch at the newspaper Nihon, he claimed that only one in ten of the poems written by the great Matsuo Basho was worth reading. Truly sublime poems, he wrote, were as sparse in Basho’s work as “stars in the morning sky.” In 1898, now all of thirty-one, Shiki claimed that Ki no Tsurayuki, editor of the Kokinshu, the most canonical imperial poetry anthology, “was a dreadful poet and the Kokinshu vastly overrated.” At the same time, in his headlong rush to modernize Japanese poetry and to establish the haiku as a poetic form expressing the individual artist’s sensibility, Shiki is said to have put an end to linked verse — thus essentially, as one critic has put it, “sound[ing] the death knell of collective versification.” In these moments, Shiki seems to want to leave the past and other poets behind.  And yet a closer look at Shiki and his work reveals a poet with an encyclopedic knowledge and a deep appreciation of the literature of Japan’s past and a poetic practice shaped by the convivial sociality of haiku composition. IN this talk, I will introduce Shiki and his work as a writer who, exquisitely aware of his own mortality and disability, was committed not to tearing, but rather repairing the fabric of tradition. Masaoka Shiki, I argue, is perhaps modern Japan’s most compelling example of what it means to “activate” and “respond to the past,” even while making it new.








February 13, 5:00pm

“A Life in Haiku: Masaoka Shiki in 1892”

Florida State University


April 20

Lecture in Japanese: “Shiki, for me, Now”


At a symposium organized by the Matsuyama Shiki Society, Matsuyama Dai-ichi Hotel




March 18

“Masaoka Shiki’s New Haiku”

Newhouse Center for the Humanities

Wellesley College

January 24

“A Queer Friendship at the Origins of Modern Japanese Literature: Shiki, Sōseki, Haiku, and the Novel.”

The Annual Grant K. Goodman Distinguished Lecture in Japanese Studies

Kansas University Center for East Asian Studies.

Parlors, Kansas Union, 5:30 pm


February 1

“Aids and Queer Theory in 1990s Japan” ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives. University of Southern California

April 7

Sōseki and Dostoevsky, Worlds of the Brothers Karamazov Symposium, Boston University.

April 12

Queer Transmissions: A Haiku Hauntology from Shiki to Sōseki, New York University Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality

March 5

Desire, Consent, Truthfulness, and Translation in The Tale of GenjiUniversity of Oslo, Norway


January 10

Sōseki to Shiki: Haiku to hyōi [Soseki and Shiki: A Haiku Hauntology”, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

March 8

An Introduction to The Tale of Genji University of Oslo, Norway.

April 13

Queer Transmissions in Japan: A Haiku Hauntology, Boston University “Lectures in Criticism” series.

April 1

On Mishima Yukio’s Forbidden Colorsan informal reading group discussion at Japan Society of New York in conjunction with the exhibition “A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints.”

August 31

The Rebirth of the Author Panel Chair and Discussant. European Association of Japanese Studies. Lisbon, Portugal.

October 3

“What is this Poem Saying?”  Thoughts on Building and Using a Collaborative Database of Translations of Poems in the Tale of Genji, Teaching with Technology Conference, Boston University.

October 12

Better than Sex? Shiki’s Food Haiku at Haiku as World Literature: A Celebration of the 150th Birthday of Masaoka Shiki,  Boston University.

October 27

Queering Translation with Murasaki Shikibu and Henry JamesKeynote Address for the Japanese Section at the American Translators’ Association Conference, Washington DC.

December 1

Sōseki’s HaikuAnd Then: Sōseki at 150, University of Chicago

December 10

Arufabetto no K [The Letter ‘K’]  International Soseki Centennial Symposium.  Ferris University, Yokohama, Japan. 

October 13

Translating Queer Theory into Japanese Institut National de Langues et Civilisations Orientales. Paris.

June 17

Kuia Seorii to Hon’yaku [Queer Theory and Translation] Tsuda College, Tokyo. , 2016.

June 22

Shiki to Sōseki: Kuia na yūjō, haiku no hontorojii [Shiki and Sōseki: A Queer Friendship, a Haiku Hauntology] Inaugural Lecture of Queer Reading Research Group. Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto.

March 7

Where Haiku Begins: Masaoka Shiki and Social Media. Invited lecture in conjunction with Tawada Yōko’s Najita Lecture, University of Chicago.

April 5

Haiku and the Beginning of ‘Literature’ in Japan. Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA.

November 15

Dōjidaijin toshite no Mishima Yukio to Goa Bidaru [Mishima Yukio and Gore Vidal: Exact Contemporaries, International Mishima Symposium, Tokyo University.

March 18

The Survival of the Author: Ghosts and Nonhuman Actors in Natsume Sōseki and Henry James Middlebury College, VT.

January 9

Nihonbungku wo kuia seorī de yomu: Sōseki wo rei ni [Queer Reading and Japanese Literatur: The Case of Sōseki Keynote Lecture at “Kuia riron to Nihonbungaku [Queer Theory and Japanese Literature.” Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto Japan. Followed by on-stage dialogue with feminist sociologist Ueno Chizuko.