David Atherton

metaLAB (at) Harvard


David Atherton is a scholar of early modern Japanese literature (ca. 1600-1867). He is particularly concerned with understanding the formal and stylistic dynamics of early modern texts, particularly fiction, and with how these dynamics opened and foreclosed possibilities for perceiving—and shaping—the lived world beyond the page. His book Writing Violence: The Politics of Form in Early Modern Japanese Literature will be published by Columbia University Press in October, 2023. He is at work on a new book titled How to Do Things with Words in Eighteenth-Century Japan: Ueda Akinari and the Powers of Style.

His interest in the dynamics of literary creativity extends to a broader engagement with creativity writ large. He course “Creativity,” taught in Harvard’s General Education curriculum, explores the nature of creativity through hands-on experiments and from multiple angles, including models and methods, imitation and originality, neuroscience, animal creativity, artificial intelligence, improvisation and collaboration, law, and creative ethics. He is currently thinking about how to engage with Artificial Intelligence creatively in his more traditional pedagogy; perhaps surprisingly, it has great potential as a tool to deepen students’ understanding of the dynamics of classical Japanese literature.


Arresting Metaphors

Students will evaluate AI tools' capacity to create poetic metaphors through reading, LLM experimentation, reflection, and discussion, as well as the role of metaphors in education.

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