[Takayuki Tatsumi’s Essay] Enter Panic Americana Since 1996


The origin of Keio University’s American literary scholarship could well be located in the program of American literature that Professor Kichinosuke Ohashi (1924-93), authority on Modernist literature with special emphasis upon Sherwood Anderson, established in Keio’s Department of English at Mita in 1965. Although he had already helped organize the American Literature Society of Japan in 1963, together with Professor Ken’zaburo Ohashi (1919-2014) , another authority on Modernist writers especially William Faulkner, without his academic effort Keio University could not have developed the genealogy of literary Americanists. It is also unforgettable that Professor Ohashi contributed funds towards the inauguration in 1979 of Colloquia, a peer-reviewed academic journal for Keio’s graduate students majoring in English and American Literature.

It is Professor Shoh Yamamoto, another Americanist of the Department of English majoring in American Renaissance writers, who invited me to take place of Professor Ohashi in 1989, the first year of the Heisei era (1989-2019). Deeply interested in American Romanticism and Postmodernism, I started teaching classes on American Renaissance, American Literary History, Critical Theory and American Literature Seminar (zemi) for undergraduate and graduate students. What with my academic background formed at Cornell University (semiotics, deconstruction and post-colonialism) and what with my own involvement with the cutting edge of American fiction (metafiction, cyberpunk and avant-pop), I wanted to radically reorganize the theoretical framework of American literary history. Therefore, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to train a number of talented students, some of whom completed excellent Ph.D. dissertations and ended up by becoming professional scholars at various universities. 

By the same token, however, it is also true that after publishing my own major work New Americanist Poetics (Seidosha) in 1995 I underwent a pedagogic conversion. I came to suppose that the task of the scholar-critic like me is not limited to transfiguring young talents into academic professionals. This conversion was caused by my encounter with a distinguished student and game player Mr. Takahiko Mukoyama (1970-2018), who was to be a million selling author in the early 21st century. He convinced me that some of his fellow undergraduate students simply wanted to enjoy American Literature and Culture as a kind of game.  Thus, following in Professor Ohashi’s steps, I made up my mind in 1996 to publish an annual basically as undergraduate Americanists’ playground with Mr. Mukoyama as the first editor-in-chief and Larry McCaffery, Hisayo Ogushi and Mari Kotani as regular contributors.  

For the title of the journal, I recall the moment of inspiration that seized me miraculously.  Reading Cotton Mather’s Puritan hagiography Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) for my American Literary History class and Arthur Kroker’s guide to postmodern culture Panic Encyclopedia (1989) for my Critical Theory class, I very naturally came up with the concept of “Panic Americana” as the anachronistic but exciting intersection between the Puritan heritage and the Postmodern experiments. Now I feel very pleased that while Tatsumi Seminar kept publishing Panic Americana for 25 years (1996-2021), Sato Seminar will inherit it in cyberspace (2021~), extending the frontiers of American Studies. 

So, what game shall we play today?
Now everybody—