Michael K. Bourdaghs, Ph.D.

Robert S. Ingersoll Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College
Wieboldt 301L
Research Interests: Modern Japanese literature, culture, and intellectual history; popular music; literary and critical theory


On leave Autumn 2023 and Winter 2024.

As a scholar of modern Japanese literature, I stress the importance of moving beyond the boundaries of Japan. Japanese literature moves within and across multiple global networks, and its meanings are fundamentally shaped by those dialogues. I also have a strong commitment to engaging actively with our counterparts in Japan. I have edited or co-edited several volumes that introduce Japanese works of critical theory, literary scholarship, and philosophical inquiry, to English-language readers.

My primary current research project pursues a rethinking of Japanese cultures of the Cold War era. Growing out of a class I have been teaching here for several year, this project aims to go beyond the U.S./Japan bilateral relation that dominates most existing scholarship to think about how Japanese writers, filmmakers, and musicians simultaneously participated in multiple Cold War networks, including (to use the vocabulary of the era) the First World of capitalist liberal democracies, the Second World of the socialist bloc, and the Third World of the decolonization movement.

Past projects include a rethinking of the work of Natsume Sōseki that takes up his fiction and critical essays in relation to ideologies of modern property ownership. Moreover, like Sōseki, I think the realm of the literary extends beyond fiction, poetry, and drama. I have strong ongoing interests in philosophy, critical theory, social history, popular culture, and film and media studies. In Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Pre-History of J-Pop (Columbia University Press, 2012), I explore Japanese popular music from 1945 through the early 1990s, looking at how songs performed by such figures as Kasagi Shizuko, Sakamoto Kyū, and Yellow Magic Orchestra engaged creatively with the shifting historical situation of Japan's Cold War. I practice literature in other modes as well: I am an active translator, and I continue to write fiction on a daily basis.

Selected Publications

Sound Alignments: Popular Music in Asia's Cold Wars, edited with Paola Iovene and Kaley Mason (Duke University Press, 2021)

A Fictional Commons: Natsume Sōseki and the Properties of Modern Literature (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021)

Literature Among the Ruins, 1945-1955: Postwar Japanese Literary Criticism (Lexington Books, 2018)

"Memento libri: New Writings and Translations from the World of Tsushima Yūko (1947~2016)" in The Asia-Pacific Journal 16, no. 12 (2018), with Anne McKnight.

The Politics and Literature Debate in Postwar Japanese Criticism, 1945-52 (Lexington Books, 2017)

Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical History of J-Pop (Columbia University Press, 2012; Japanese translation 2012).

「夏目漱石の《世界文学》・英語圏から『文学論』を読み直す」(Natsume Sōseki’s ‘World Literature’: Rereading Theory of Literature from the English-speaking world), 『文学』13:3 (May/June 2012), 2-16.

The Linguistic Turn in Contemporary Japanese Literary Studies: Textuality, Language, Politics. Edited and with an introduction by Michael K. Bourdaghs. (University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies Publications, 2010).

Natsume Sōseki, Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings, edited by Michael K. Bourdaghs, Atsuko Ueda, and Joseph A. Murphy. (Columbia University Press, 2009).

“Property and Sociological Knowledge:  Natsume Sōseki and the Gift of Narrative,” in Japan Forum (2009). 

「英語圏における『文学論』―理論・化学・所有」(Bungakuron in the English-Speaking World: Theory, Science, Possession). 『国文学』51:3 (March 2006), 137-147.

The Dawn That Never Comes:  Shimazaki Tōson and Japanese Nationalism.  (New York:  Columbia University Press, 2003). 

Kamei Hideo, Transformations of Sensibility:  The Phenomenology of Meiji Literature (original Japanese title:  Kansei no henkaku, 1983), translation edited and with an introduction by Michael Bourdaghs. (Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies  Publications, 2002).



  • Topics in EALC: East Asian Popular Music (EALC 10510, Autumn 2021)
  • The Worlds of Japanese Literature (EALC 46090, Autumn 2021)
  • Fictions of Selfhood in Japanese Literature (EALC 24950, Spring 2021)
  • Sound in Japanese Literature (EALC 44450, Spring 2021)