Rynosuke Akutagawa gained attention even as a student in English literature at Tokyo University, publishing a short story about a priest with an enormous nose in 1916. Natsumi Sseki, the foremost novelist of the day, wrote Akutagawa praising his concise style and predicting that if he could write twenty or thirty more such stories he would become famous. He was well recognized as a literary figure by 1918, an unusual accomplishment for such a young writer. Such was his fame that in 1935 the Akutagawa Prize was established in his name. It recognizes promising new writers and is one of the most prestigious literary awards in Japan. Akutagawa is generally considered to be one of the outstanding literary figures in the prewar era, along with Sseki and Mori gai, and he achieved this in spite of a brief career. His stories are considered classics in modern Japanese literature.
Gerow, A. A. “The Self Seen as Other: Akutagawa and Film.” Literature/Film Quarterly 23 (1995): 197-203. Discusses the influence of film on Akutagawa’s fiction. Argues that cinema affects the central conflict between East and West and traditional and modern in his work and that Akutagawa’s use of film suggests the loss of traditional Japanese culture and an effort to create a new national identity.
Hibbett, Howard. “Akutagawa Rynosuke and the Negative Ideal.” In Personality in Japanese History, edited by Albert M. Craig and Donald H. Shively. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970. In his essay, Hibbett notes the general conclusion that Akutagawa’s suicide is generally interpreted as that of a martyr to the times, and thus symbolic. As the writer’s development and various works are discussed, their relationship to his mental condition at various periods is well analyzed. Includes a table of contents and an index.
Hiraoka, Toshio. Remarks on Akutagawa’s Works: With American Students’ Opinions. Tokyo: Seirosha, 1990. Analyses of Akutagawa’s works. Includes English translations of some of the fiction.
Keene, Donald. “Akutagawa Rynosuke.” In Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era. Vol. 1. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984. Keene’s comprehensive...
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