Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 9, Number 2, Fall 2021


Calls for Regular Features

On Our Cover

Voting Rights
Brook Thomas

Pleasure Reading
Best Moments
Sharon Cameron

Dead Fish: On Rereading Moby-Dick
Emily Gowen

Cabin Fever
Isaa Kolding

The Understory
Matthew Crow



From Labor Reform to the Welfare State: The Critique of Capitalism in Three Postbellum Women’s Novels
Sophia Forster

This article places socially-concerned novels by Rebecca Harding Davis, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Louisa May Alcott in the context of the beginnings of the American welfare state. It shows that the authors’ representations of gender, class, and race forecast the tactics of maternalist political activists, who would translate postbellum labor reform strategies into the Progressive-Era protective labor legislation and social provision that provided some of the first meaningful intervention in the capitalist ideology and practice of “freedom of contract.”


“There Is an Indian Nature”: Ethnography, Skepticism, and the “Theory of the Peace Congress” in Melville’s Confidence-Man
Rachel S. Ravina

This article contextualizes satirical comments in The Confidence-Man about the “theory of the Peace Congress” on “Indian nature.” I suggest that George Copway, an Ojibwe writer who spoke at an International Peace Congress, may be one of Melville’s points of reference. As a popular ethnographer, speaker, and the inspiration for Longfellow’s epic poem depicting indigenous pacifism (Hiawatha), Copway was a key public figure in discussions of “Indian nature,” assimilability, and pacifism. I explore two ways Copway’s work can be read as a subtext: first, as a model of counter-ethnography that may have influenced Melville’s dialogue, which exposes the critical problems with representing ‘Indians’ as a monolith through similar inversions of racial tropes of description. Secondly, I suggest that Melville’s satirical nod to the “theory of the Peace Congress” might be a subtle critique of Copway’s hypocrisy; while he represented “his race” at a congress devoted to universal benevolence, by the time of The Confidence-Man’s composition, Copway had become known for his work with the racist Nativist Know-Nothing party. These contexts can help us understand Melville’s skepticism not a turn away from politics but a critique of the racial imaginary of reform discourse and its sources of epistemic authority. 



Special Section on Frederick Douglass

Introduction to the Annotated Edition of Douglass’s Unpublished DOUGLASS “Slavery
Leslie Leonard

Sometime between June of 1894 and his death in February 1895, Frederick Douglass penned a sixty-five-page essay, simply titled “Slavery.” While the work was originally intended for publication in an illustrated history from Harvard Publishing Company, it has remained, until now, largely unknown in the Library of Congress archives. The essay appears here along with annotations and an introduction which situates the piece and highlights its continued relevance for modern readers. Douglass’s essay speaks cogently to current concerns of continued anti-Black racism and state-sanctioned violence. It similarly offers new insights both for scholars of Douglass’s work and for those readers attuned to the long afterlife of slavery in which we still live.

Frederick Douglass



Japanizing C19 American Literary Studies 十九世紀アメリカ文学研究を日本化する 

Introduction: Japanizing C19 American Literary Studies
イントロダクション:十九世紀アメリカ文学 研究を日本化する
Yoshiaki Furui

For more than half a century, C19 American literary studies in Japan has been a truly active field of study. Why is C19 American literary studies so active in Japan? What is it about C19 American literature that appeals to Japanese scholars? How have C19 authors been received in Japan? To answer these questions, this forum introduces C19 American literary studies in Japan to the scholars in the United States and beyond, with a hope that this forum helps enhance an international scholarly exchange across the Pacific. In today’s age of globalization, a mutually affecting influence across national borders would diversify and energize C19 American literary studies, which this forum aims to encourage. By directing attention to the modes of studies different from their own, American literary studies in the US, which is said to have undergone the transnational turn, can make itself transnational by learning what Japanese academics have to say about C19 American literature.

American Renaissance in the Age of Theory: A Far East Version
Takayuki Tatsumi

This article traces the way postwar Japanese scholars primarily accepted the concept of American Renaissance in the New Critical milieu (the 1950s-70s) and then radically reinterpreted it in the age of postmodernism (the 1980s-90s), ending up with the rising generation in the post-Cold War and transnational climate of the 21st century. The author illustrated the points with numerous works from the 1970s through the 2010s, with special emphasis upon Professor Toshio Yagi of Seijo University and Professor Fumio Ano of Tohoku University, a couple of academic giants in this field. On one hand, Yagi’s epoch-making essay “Moby-Dick as Mosaic” (originally written in 1983 and translated into English by Yagi himself in 1993) anatomized Melville’s proto-postmodern blueprint of writing the mega-novel as a deconstructive mosaic. On the other hand, Ano, sharing the metaphor of mosaic with Yagi, attempted to represent the very Hawthornesque history as mosaic. His 1985 essay “Hawthorne and Poison” (originally written in 1985 and translated into English by Ano himself in 2007) critically expanded Dr. Jemshed A. Khan’s intriguing perspective upon Hawthorne, and creatively re-read the short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” It is their trans-Pacific interactions with North American specialists that helped make today’s Japanese scholarship of American literature international. 

The Development of Mark Twain Studies in Japan
Tsuyoshi Ishihara

This essay is an overview of almost a century old history of Mark Twain Studies in Japan. It starts with the discussion on Masajiro Hamada’s pioneering English articles on Twain in the 1930s, suggesting that they were in fact the earliest thorough scholarly examinations even outside of Japan that chose to discuss as the central theme Twain’s writings of social satire that attacks injustices toward the oppressed. This essay also reveals that, to justify the studies of “enemy’s literature” during WWII, the wartime discussions on Twain tended to utilize this representative American author as a means to understand “enemy’s characteristics.” Then, it also suggests that although the negative tone in the wartime discussions on Twain was diminished, this tendency to view Twain as an embodiment of America was inherited by Japanese scholars even after the war. Towards the end, the essay introduces some data that evidence the significant jump in productivity of Twain scholarship in Japan particularly after the 1990s, the time when the Japan Mark Twain Society was founded. In the end, the essay concludes with the introduction to the new trends of the 21st century, such as the globalization of its scholarship and publication of academic journals specialized in Twain Studies.

Japanese Approach to Emily Dickinson’s Poetry
Hiroko Uno

In 1931, when the fame of Emily Dickinson was still not well established in her home country, a Japanese scholar, Bunsho Jugaku, evaluated her poetry highly, specifying the unique, concise form of her poems as well as her love of nature. The Emily Dickinson Society of Japan was founded in 1980, eight years prior to the incorporation of the Emily Dickinson International Society in the United States. The fact that Dickinson’s poetry is actively studied in Japan may well be due to the characteristics it shares with the Japanese love of nature and our cultural forms such as haiku and black-and-white drawings. According to a Japanese specialist in the history of sciences, Masao Watanabe, to Japanese there is no clear distinction between human beings and living things in nature. Furthermore, Japanese take pleasure in using their imagination to insert the unwritten in a poem or fill the white space in artwork. Tenshin Okakura calls such Japanese aestheticism “a worship of the Imperfect” in his book The Book of Tea. Therefore, it could be said that we Japanese are eager to study Dickinson’s poetry because we feel in it some affinity with Japanese culture and our love of nature.

Thoreau’s Confucianist Turn in Japan
Tsutomu Takahashi

This essay brings into focus the transformed configuration of Henry Thoreau in modern and contemporary Japan by looking into social and aesthetic factors. Guided by Takita Yoshiko’s preceding study “Thoreavian Creed in Japan,” this essay explores the historically predominant approach of reception along with its essential factors, and also attempts to see the changing phases of development in recent years citing translations, scholarship, and publishing industry.