Organized Panel Session
This panel presents critical readings of monsters, ghosts, and spirits in Japanese literature. Japanese culture has always exhibited an interest in figures located in liminal spaces between the human and the non-human, the visible and the invisible, and the living and the dead. In literature, they often serve as metaphors of the evil, the fearful, and the vengeful. Such monstrosity and monstrous spirituality become manifestations of a wide range of marginal characters, ranging from abandoned women, to non-human creatures whose role is to punish humans, to rustics who do not belong to any social classes. By definition, they are negative forces to be avoided and feared.
Our presentations focus on the power associated with liminality and explores the creative and literary powers that liminal figures derived from their outsider status. We investigate a temporally broad spectrum from early and medieval Japanese literary genres such as a tale (Sagoromo monogatari), a legend (Shuten Dōji), and a nō play (Shikimi Tengu) to a modern Japanese short story (Ango Sakaguchi's "In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom"). Our presentations underline the significance of the transformative power of the liminal status, in addition to placing each figure in its historical and literary context. Our goal is to trace the thread of their creative and critical powers through different genres and over time, and by doing so elucidate the ways in which they challenge and destabilize the prescribed (social, political, religious, and aesthetic) order that confines gender roles and biological taxonomies.