David Atherton

David Atherton

Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
David Atherton
  • Region(s): Japan
  • Time Period(s): 17th century; 18th century; 19th century
  • Theme(s): Japanese Literature; Japanese Drama; History of Emotions; Literary Studies; History of the Book


David Atherton specializes in the study of Japanese literature and culture of the early modern (Edo or Tokugawa) period, with an emphasis on popular fiction and theater. He is particularly interested in the ways popular literature and drama interacted with and impacted larger discourses of identity, community, emotion, and morality. His current book project, Writing Violence in an Age of Peace: Breaking Bodies and Provoking Passions in Early Modern Japanese Literature, considers the social, emotional, and political work performed by the representation of violence (from torture and revenge to murder—and worse) in the popular literature of the Tokugawa “age of peace.” He is also in the early stages of a second book project, which explores the imagination of literary creativity in the early modern period, a time that witnessed the emergence of a vast print market and an explosion in books and readers. Other, smaller projects currently in progress focus on the relationship between economics and literary form in print fiction, the literary imagination of the thief, and early modern castaway literature. Recent and forthcoming articles explore the elaborate poetic performances of Ihara Saikaku, the representation of samurai in seventeenth-century fiction, early modern disaster literature, the moral imagination of the household through the lens of blood revenge, and the forest in premodern Siamese poetry.

Atherton received his Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Columbia University in 2013. He holds an M.A. in classical Thai literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2006) and an A.B. from Harvard, where he focused on Chinese literature and film (2000). Prior to joining EALC, Atherton taught for four years at the University of Colorado Boulder.

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