Jon L Pitt

Picture of Jon L Pitt
Assistant Professor, East Asian Studies
School of Humanities
Affiliate Faculty, Critical Theory
School of Humanities
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2019, Japanese
M.A., St. John's College, Santa Fe, 2013, East Asian Classics
B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2003, Literature
University of California, Irvine
478 Humanities Instructional Building
Mail Code: 6000
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Japanese literature, Japanese cinema, Japanese sound media, critical plant studies, environmental humanities, environmental media theory
Research Abstract
My research examines the intersections of Japanese literature and media (including cinema and sound media) and the environmental sciences. My goal is to bring the study of Japan into the growing field of Critical Plant Studies. I am interested in how interdisciplinary work across the humanities and the sciences can foster new interpretive modes for both fields. I look to demonstrate how scientific frameworks such as evolution and ecology have influenced (and continue to influence) Japanese literature and cinema. I believe finding points of contact between literary/filmic texts and the study of the environment can help us better understand our own places within the changing environment of the contemporary moment.

My current project, titled Botanical Imagination: Rethhinking Plants in Modern Japan (under contract with Cornell University Press), proposes that vegetation (and the scientific study of plants) offered a number of modern Japanese writers and filmmakers a new model through which to rethink human subjectivity and develop notions of plasticity in response to turbulent historical events. I examine how an intellectual investment in plant life brings together a wide-ranging group of writers and intellectuals from the 1930s to the 2010s: literary authors such as Osaki Midori, Abe Kobo, Haniya Yutaka, Ito Seiko, and Ito Hiromi, parascientist Hashimoto Ken, and filmmakers Yanagimachi Mitsuo and Kawase Naomi. I argue that human subjectivity in the texts composed by this group writers and filmmakers is rethought beyond the confines of the human body, beyond conventional sense perception, and also beyond human temporality.
Awards and Honors
•School of Humanities Senate Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (AY 2022-2023)
Journal Articles
"Documenting Wordless Testimony: Botanical Witnesses of Hiroshima and Chernobyl." Angelaki, 28:4 (2023), 61-75.
DOI: 10.1080/0969725X.2023.2233801
Chapters in Collected Volumes
"Becoming Marimo: The Curious Case of a Charismatic Algae and Imagined Indigeneity." In Yogi Hale Hendlin, Johanna Weggelaar, Natalia Derossi, and Sergio Mungai, ed., Being Algae: Transformations in Water, Plants. Brill Critical Plant Studies Book Series, 2024.

"Of Miracles and Mourning: Reading COVID-19 Environmentally in Uchidate Makiko and Ito Seiko." In Mina Qiao, ed., The Coronavirus Pandemic in Japanese Literature and Popular Culture. Routledge, 2023.

"Teeming Up with Life: Reading the Environment in Ishimure Michiko, Hayashi Fumiko, and Osaki Midori." In Rebecca Copeland, ed., Handbook of Modern and Contemporary Japanese Women Writers. MHM Limited, 2023.
Book Reviews
Yuriko Furuhata. Climatic Media: Transpacific Experiments in Atmospheric Control. The Journal of Asian Studies, 81: 4 (2022), 766-768.

Thomas R. H. Havens. Land of Plants in Motion: Japanese Botany and the World. Monumenta Nipponica, 76: 1 (2021), 163-167.
DOI: 10.1353/mni.2021.0003.
Tree Spirits Grass Spirits, by Hiromi Ito. Nightboat Books, 2023.

“Living Trees and Dying Trees”. Translation of "Ikiteiru ki to shindeiku ki" from Kodama kusadama by Ito Hiromi. Asymptote Journal. October 2020.
Last updated