Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Faye Kleeman

Second Advisor

Laurel Rodd

Third Advisor

Patrick Greaney


Mori Atsushi 森敦 (1912~1989) was a writer who, after taking an unconventional path that included being protégé to New Sensationalist writer Yokomitsu Riichi 横光利一 (1898-1947), traveling in and around Japan, working in technical industries, and studying mathematics and esoteric Buddhism, won the Akutagawa Prize in 1974 for his novel Gassan 月山. This thesis provides a translation and critical introduction to his 1984 text The Transformation of Meaning (Imi no henyō 意味の変容), a work that incorporates multiple genres (including essay, fiction, autobiography, and uniquely Japanese categories such as or zuihitsu 随筆 and shishōsetsu 私小説 and fields of intellectual inquiry, including mathematics, logic, the thought of Confucius, Western philosophy, and Buddhist philosophy), transforming them into a new “super genre” that is the goal of Mori’s theory of literature. Moreover, it introduces themes of circularity, repetition, and universal totality that are further developed in his later fiction.

To aid in comprehension of this challenging text, the thesis incorporates a full translation with illustrations, chapter summaries, and a glossary of terms. In addition, the introduction provides biographical information on Mori Atsushi, a discussion of the evolution of the text, explanations of a number of the subjects and fields that inform the ideas in the text, or are used as the media by which these ideas are presented. The third section of the introduction contains a discussion of Mori’s circular model of reality that serves as the conceptual scaffolding to the text, how it is indebted to both abstract mathematics (topology, projective geometry, set theory) and to the Buddhist school of philosophy was inspired by the totalistic view of reality that is exuberantly revealed in the Kegon sutra (J. kegon-kyō 華厳経; Ch. Hwa-yen sutra; S. Avatamsaka sutra). It also includes an analysis of how the circular model expounded in The Transformation of Meaning informs Mori’s most famous work, Gassan.