Japanese Literature Graduate Program

UW-Madison offers both M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Japanese literature. Professors D’Etcheverry, Kern, and Ridgely train students in a variety of eras and genres, with particular strengths in Heian fiction and poetry, Tokugawa literature and popular culture, and the experimental, cross-media offerings of the postwar avant-garde. Our theoretical perspectives are equally eclectic: D’Etcheverry favors new historical explorations of text and audience, Kern works on the verbal-visual relation, and Ridgely uses the insights of cultural studies. We consider this combination of intellectual flexibility and shared commitment to fundamentals to be one of the subtler strengths of our program. Students will leave our program conversant with several approaches to Japanese literature as well as a particular area of expertise.

In addition to our own offerings, we encourage students to take courses with some of the award-winning faculty who teach about Japan in other departments here, such as History, Anthropology, Art History, and Comparative Literature. The UW is particularly strong in modern Japan, with a number of professors teaching and writing about it from both humanistic and quantitative perspectives. However, our well-respected specialists in medieval art, religious history and Kabuki, as well as one of the best university collections of woodblock prints in the world (the E.B. Van Vleck Collection includes more than 4,000 prints) make the UW a wonderful place to study pre-modern culture and history, too. This unusual assembly of scholars, with their distinct areas of expertise and modes of argumentation, is an invaluable resource for our students. Once again, it allows students to broaden their vision while honing the skills necessary for research. Both sets of course offerings, both within the Japanese literature program and beyond it, also help our students to develop the range and flexibility necessary for a good classroom teacher, our second but equally important objective for them. 


Charo B. D’Etcheverry
Ph.D. Princeton University
Professor of Japanese Literature

Professor D’Etcheverry is very interested in late Heian court tales and their reception. Her first book, Love After The Tale of Genji: Rewriting the World of the Shining Prince (Harvard University Asia Center, 2007), discusses how three of these tales revise some of Genji’s most famous romances. Her current projects include a second book, tentatively titled Sagoromo and Asukai: A Love Story in Five Genres, on how medieval writers further adapted these tales for their own ends, and an article on kabuki views of Heian’s Six Poets.  D’Etcheverry has served on the executive committee of the UW-Madison Teaching Academy and as a facilitator for campus-wide teaching workshops and is strongly committed to training graduate students to become good classroom instructors as well as research specialists.

Adam L. Kern
Ph.D. Harvard University
Professor of Japanese Literature and Visual Culture

Professor Kern has published Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyōshi of Edo Japan (Harvard University Asia Center, 2006) and copious articles, translations, and book reviews. His current work includes The Penguin Book of Haiku (forthcoming from Penguin Classics out of London). His research and teaching cover the popular culture, literature, theater, poetry, and visual culture of Japan’s last four centuries. He has worked as a Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Japanese Literature, a staff reporter for the Japanese-language newspaper The Kyoto Shimbun, and an intern in the editorial office of the manga weekly Young Magazine.

Steve Ridgely
Ph.D. Yale University
Associate Professor of Japanese Literature

Professor Ridgely is the author of Japanese Counterculture: The Antiestablishment Art of Terayama Shūji (University of Minnesota Press, 2010). He also translated the essays and interviews in Japan Avant-Garde: 100 Poster Masterpieces from Underground Theatre (Parco, 2004). His new project is on Expo 70 and Japanese kitsch. His courses cover modern and contemporary Japanese literature, cinema, and popular culture.


Joan Fujimura (Sociology): Gender, science, biotechnology 
David Furumoto (Theatre and Drama): acting, Kabuki stylistics 
Mary Layoun (Comparative Literature): East/West relations, manga 
Yuri Miyamoto (Psychology): Cultural psychology 
Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (Anthropology): Cultural/symbolic anthropology 
Gene Phillips (Art History): Japanese painting, medieval art and religion
Jim Raymo (Sociology): Japanese demographics, birth rates, marriage
Ben Singer (Communication Arts): Film theory, early Japanese film 
Sarah Thal (History): Japanese religion and politics, 19th-century 
Louise Young (History): Japanese fascism, imperialism, urbanization


To be considered for admission, students should have the equivalent of three years of Japanese language training at the University of Wisconsin and excellent essay-writing skills in English. Fourth-year proficiency is required to be considered for Teaching Assistantships in Japanese language. We encourage applicants to include a writing sample on Japanese literature or culture.

Those students whose achievement in the M.A. program is considered superior (as determined by the faculty committee on the basis of the course record and M.A. examination results) are eligible to enter the Ph.D. program. Students applying for the Ph.D. program with an M.A. in Japanese literature from another institution will be given a qualifying examination during their first year in residence to determine their eligibility for the Ph.D. program.

Application Process

Application and Admissions Information for Graduate Programs

Funding Information for Graduate Programs

As a large public university, UW-Madison is limited in the amount of support it can provide to graduate students. Regrettably, the department itself cannot offer fellowships to its students. Some of our students have received Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) grants from UW-Madison’s Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS), a federally-funded hub for research on the region. These grants are available for academic year and summer support, both on campus and at accredited programs all over the world. Our students have also had good luck with dissertation research grants such as  Fulbright fellowships.

Students wishing to supplement such grants or personal resources with work-study positions will find a wide, if unpredictable, variety of offerings on campus. Within the department, those with strong Japanese skills may apply for teaching assistantships in the undergraduate language program. The Center for East Asian Studies also regularly hires students for project assistant positions and, more occasionally, lecturerships. Students can also seek out such employment with the Center for Humanities and other units on campus, including the various learning communities. Finally, faculty in all departments, including Asian Languages and Cultures, need readers each semester to help score papers and exams. You may wish to contact some of the Japan studies faculty mentioned above before each semester begins to ask about such opportunities—or, for that matter, to discover newly offered project and teaching assistantships.