Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Brian Hurley

PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Assistant Professor
Brian Hurley



I am a scholar of modern Japanese literature with interests in close reading, intellectual history, and economics.  My first book, Conspiring with Modern Japanese Literature and Thought (under contract with Harvard University Asia Center), explores the literary dimensions of intellectual history, and the intellectual side of literary aesthetics, in twentieth-century Japanese texts.  I am now at work on my second book project, which examines the nexus of aesthetics and economics in contemporary Japanese literature.  My scholarship has appeared in The Journal of Japanese Studies, Representations, The Routledge Companion to Literature and Economics, The Review of Japanese Culture and Society, and the Japanese-language journal of literary criticism Bungaku.  In the Department of Asian Studies, I offer a range of humanities courses that link aspects of Japanese literature and cultural history to global contexts.


ANS 379 • Cultr/Crisis In Contemp Jpn-Wb

32775 • Spring 2021
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM
Internet; Synchronous

This course analyzes perspectives on contemporary Japanese cultural history (roughly, 1980s to the present). We will examine a wide range of materials—including novels, films, images, theoretical writings, and social scientific studies—that prompt us to consider how the affluence generated by Japan’s famed economy and corporate institutions has been haunted by thorny social and ecological questions not easily resolved. Through these explorations, our course will position the cultural history of contemporary Japan as a key nexus within urgent dialogues about climate change, economic inequality, and other global issues.


  • Attendance/Participation: 15%
  • Meaningful Reading Responses: 15%
  • Class Presentation: 10%
  • Two Mid-Term Exams: 15% each
  • Final Paper: 30%

ANS 390 • Modernism In East Asia-Wb

32805 • Spring 2021
Meets TH 6:00PM-9:00PM
Internet; Synchronous

Study of various Asian studies-related topics that do not focus on any single geographic region.  Specific offerings are listed in the Course Schedule.  Prerequisite: Graduate standing; additional prerequisites vary with the topic and are given in the Course Schedule.

ANS 301M • Pop Culture In Modern Japan-Wb

31614 • Fall 2020
Meets MW 4:00PM-5:30PM
Internet; Synchronous

This class examines the politics of popular culture in modern Japan. Over the course of the semester,

we will consider pieces of literature, film, music, and visual culture in a range of historical contexts.

The first half of our course will take us from the realm of 17th and 18th century urban life in Edo to

the violent age of wartime and empire in the early 20th century. The latter half of the course will then

examine the politics of popular culture in more recent contexts leading up to (and including) our own

age of globalization today.

Ranging over this vast and various cultural historical territory, we will develop an understanding of

how the history of modern media has shaped the popular cultural imagination in Japan, and beyond.

We will compare live theater to the mechanically reproducible art of recorded music, for example, and

look at how the solitary experience of literary reading that was enabled by the rise of print capitalism

contrasts with the collective catharsis of screened spectacle. We will follow the global flows of styles

and sensibilities that seem to open up limitless possibilities at the same time that we will trace the

specter of censorship that has always stalked pop culture.

In pursuing these inquires, our study of the history of popular culture in Japan will help us to

understand how politics and pleasure have circulated through the same conduits created by the

modern culture industry.

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