Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

David C. Atherton

Second Advisor

R. Keller Kimbrough

Third Advisor

Laurel Rasplica Rodd

Fourth Advisor

Marcia Yonemoto


This thesis examines two works by Asai Ryōi (?-1691) 浅井了意 that depict urban disasters. The first is Musashi abumi むさしあぶみ (1661), which deals with a fire that ravaged Edo in 1657; the second is Kanameishi かなめいし (ca. 1662), which is about an earthquake that occurred in Kyoto in 1662. Despite being written by the same person, these works use very different strategies in their respective representations of urban catastrophe. In engaging these texts, I focus on the various contexts in which Ryōi wrote them—contexts related to place, literary tradition, and the catastrophic events themselves—to illuminate why these works are so different. In emphasizing these texts’ historically-grounded diversity, I argue that we can broaden our perspective on what constitutes “disaster writing” in a way that moves away from conceptions of such writing as “speaking the unspeakable.”