Marvin Marcus

Marvin Marcus

​Chair of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Professor of Japanese Language and Literature and of Comparative Literature
Head of the Japanese Section
PhD, University of Michigan
MA, University of Michigan
MLA, Johns Hopkins University
research interests:
  • Literature of the Meiji-Taisho periods (1868-1926)
  • Japanese biographical and autobiographical literature
  • Japanese literary journalism
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contact info:

office hours:

  • Monday 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
    Thursday 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
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mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1111
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Professor Marcus’s area of specialization is modern Japanese literature of the prewar (so-called kindai ) period, and his research has focused on personal narrative and ‘life writing’—memoir, reminiscence, essay, diary, and autobiography.​

Marvin Marcus did his doctoral work at the University of Michigan, under the direction of Robert Brower and Robert Danly, and he has been on the Washington University faculty since 1985. Marcus’s area of specialization is modern Japanese literature of the prewar (so-called kindai ) period, and his research has focused on personal narrative and ‘life writing’—memoir, reminiscence, essay, diary, and autobiography. He also researches aspects of the Tokyo literary community—the bundan—and the literary journalism that was its lifeblood. Marcus has extensively researched and written on authors such as Mori Ōgai, Natsume Sōseki, Shimazaki Tōson, Futabatei Shimei, and Uchida Roan. Literary translation has been an essential component of this work over the years. Paragons of the Ordinary (Hawaii, 1993) concerns Ōgai’s biographical writings. Reflections in a Glass Door (Hawaii, 2009) centers on Sōseki’s wide-ranging personal writings. Marcus’s current book project, entitled Writing in the Margins, brings together a number of interrelated perspectives on kindai literature through the ‘marginal’ endeavors of major writers.

Marvin Marcus has a courtesy appointment with Comparative Literature and has taught comparatist courses on the literature of reminiscence to freshmen and doctoral candidates as well. He also teaches widely in the area of Japanese poetry and is himself a practicing poet. His collection, entitled Orientations: The Found Poetry of Scholarly Discourse on Asia (Mellen Poetry Press, 2004), speaks to the creative, and at times ironic, expressiveness that has been a welcome corrective—and complement— to his scholarly research.

Courses Taught

  • L05 226C Japanese Civilization
  • L03 294 Images of East Asia: Chronicling the Japan Experience
  • L05 324 A User's Guide to Japanese Poetry
  • L05 333C Modern Voice in Japanese Literature
  • L05 445 Japanese Fiction: Japanese Fiction in the Postwar Period
  • L05 4451 Topics in Modern Japanese Literature: Memories of Childhood and Youth in Japan
  • L05 448 Japanese Poetry
  • L05 464 Japanese Textual Analysis
  • L05 491 Topics in Japanese Literature & History: Japanese Literary Reminiscence
  • L05 491 Topics in Japanese Literature & History: Survey of Modern Literary Texts
  • L03 4911 The Nativist Dimension in Modern Japanese Culture
  • L05 561 Special Topics Seminar in the Literature of Japan: Historical Fiction & Question of Historical Narrative
  • L05 561 Seminar in the Literature of Japan: Survey of Meiji-Taisho Literary Texts