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X-Files from Modern Japan: Spirits, Spirituality, and Parapsychology in Modern Japanese Literature

Sun, June 26, 10:30am to 12:20pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 106

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel Proposal Application


Part of the appeal of storytelling—be it literary, oral, or things in between—comes from
its ability to take uncomfortable and complex social issues and render them in a form more palatable to the reading public. Tales of the supernatural use otherworldly elements to confront social anxieties and explore the possibilities of future paths. This is done not only through content, but also through the form of the narratives. This panel focuses on imaginative internal and transcendent horizons of fear and hope—as well as knowledge and despair—in modern Japanese literature: the spiritual, the spooky, and the spuriously scientific. Writers such as Kōda Rohan (1867-1947), Mori Ōgai (1862-1922), and Kitamura Tōkoku (1868-94) ventured into unempirical territory with their experiments in ghost stories, religious poetry, and parapsychology. They overturn the idea that writers are seen either to embrace formal and stylistic innovations or to romanticize an invented past. But that is not to say that they avoided the political, technological, and artistic turmoils of their time. Rather, they questioned received social and aesthetic values or certainties by exploring and embracing innovative uncertainties. Collectively, this panel explores the way in which modern Japanese storytelling embraced the supernatural and the ghostly as a means to cross boundaries and question social and political issues in both their content and their form.

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