Reiko Abe Auestad

Friday, October 27th, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. in CEAS 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Reiko Abe Auestad, “Tsushima Yūko: Calling upon the Dead”

Discussant: Helina Mazza-Hilway (PhD candidate, EALC)

Please join us Friday, October 27th as we host Reiko Abe Auestad (Professor of Japan Studies at the University of Oslo.) She will present a draft of her article in progress, which she summarizes as follows:

The philosopher Avishai Margalit privileges an ethics “that tells us how we should regulate our thick relations” with family, friends, and others who are close to us, over a “morality” that concerns our “thin relations,” with those with whom we share only a common humanity. While Margalit points toward the difficulty of reconciling these two, this paper argues that Tsushima’s novels show how the distinction can be disrupted. I read Warai ōkami (Laughing Wolf), which addresses issues of history and memory, against Tsushima’s explicitly autobiographical work “Mahiru e” (Toward midday)  to see how reading them together can connect the social and the personal by turning “thin relations” into “thick” ones through the act of remembering.

In a 2001 interview with members of Shishōsetsu kenkyūkai, Tsushima argued that it is impossible to write a work of fiction that is not somehow rooted in the authorial “I,” and that all fiction is therefore a form of “shishōsetsu,” or I-fiction. Overemphasis on the value of fictive imagination and so-called “socially important themes” can, she warns, not only kill the “I” in a work, but can also kill off its relation to humanity (and thus its status as literature) altogether.

Many of Tsushima’s novels are haunted by deaths of people close to her in real life, including her father, Dazai Osamu, her mentally handicapped brother, and her own son. At the same time, the novels enable the “rebirth” of these figures by way of affective association and creative remembering. Indeed, the great power of Tsushima’s novels lies in their ability to evoke the presence of these ghosts. The network of affective associations that they trigger in us through our knowledge of her life creates the very visceral qualities that render “thick” our ethical experience of reading about these people whom we have never met.

The paper is available directly below, or at this link. If you have not received the password, or have questions about accessibility, please feel free to contact Helina Mazza-Hilway ( or Susan Su (





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.