Floating Islands; or, Saikaku's Eighteenth Century

deadline for submissions: 
October 8, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
American Society of 18th Century Studies
contact email: 

Following the various calls for a more global perspective on the eighteenth century at ASECS 2021, this panel seeks papers on the work of Japanese author Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693). In her 2016 book, The Age of Silver, Ning Ma discusses Saikaku as the most significant representative figure of the “stories of the floating world” that, she argues, should be seen as an emergence of realist fiction. A bestseller in 17th and 18th century Japan, Saikaku’s work fell into obscurity until a revival of interest in the late 19th century, when he became known as “Japan’s realist”.
Yet he remains relatively unknown in the US, even within the field of 18th century studies, a problem that this panel seeks to alleviate. Saikaku’s playful eroticism —both straight and queer —and sympathetic examination of social class and urban life have much to offer for an enriched understanding of the global eighteenth-century.

Potential topics could include, but are by no means limited to:

Discussion of any of
Saikaku’s works;

Comparative studies of Saikaku and other 18th century authors, British or

Examinations of the representation of sexuality in Saikaku’s fiction;

Discussions of “floating world” narratives and the emergence of realism;

Pedagogical approaches to teaching Saikaku’s work.


Proposals from scholars in Asian Studies and people working in Japanese literature are particularly welcome, as are proposals from independent scholars, contingent workers, and graduate students.