My current project analyzes how the idea of artistic creativity as mental abnormality (the “morbid genius”) became a central concept for the formation of the literary field in 1910s and 1920s Japan.

I argue that writers like Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886-1965), Satō Haruo (1892-1964) and Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892-1927) deployed this idea in order to carve a privileged space for themselves as “modern authors,” at a time when literary writing was becoming professionalized.

Psychological abnormality offered them both a mark of modernity, as well as a set of aesthetic, medical and political discourses to legitimize a notion of literary value based on the artist’s unique experience of the world.