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David Barnett Lurie

Wm. Theodore and Fanny Brett de Bary and Class of 1941 Collegiate Professor of Asian Humanities and Associate Professor of Japanese History and Literature, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

ORCID: 0000-0001-9254-2277

(For a pdf of an up-to-date CV click here.)
B.A. in Literature from Harvard University (1993, magna cum laude); M.A. (1996) and Ph.D. (2001, with distinction) in Japanese Literature from Columbia University.
Selected Papers and Publications (for errata click here; for a list of downloadable pdfs click here)
  • “Negative Aesthetics: The Power of Ugliness in Japanese Mythology,” at “Aesthetics as Epistemic Practice in Premodern Cultures,” Freie Universität Berlin, 26 June 2021
  • Participant in virtual panel discussion on “Turning Points” as part of the Call for Papers for the 2022 Association for Japanese Literature Studies conference at UCLA, March 2021
  • “Creative Destruction: Making and Restoring Fragments in Premodern Japanese Commentary,” Interdisciplinary Research Seminar on Ethical Reading, Oxford University, 20 January 2021
  • “Orikuchi Shinobu ni yoru ‘irogonomi’ no sōzō: Konkyo to shite no Kojiki o megutte” [Orikuchi Shinobu’s Creation of the Concept of ‘Promiscuity’: Concerning the Use of the Kojiki as Support], Kokugo to kokubungaku 96:11, November 2019
  • “Japanese Lexicography from ca. 1800 to the Present,” in The Cambridge World History of Lexicography, ed. John Considine, Cambridge University Press, 2019
  • “The Printed Book as Script Contact Zone: Japanese Glossed Xylographic Editions of Chinese Texts,” at “Scripts in Contact: Practices and Interference,” Scripta/Research University Paris (PSL), 28 February 2019
  • “Parables of Inscription: Some Notes on Narratives of the Origin of Writing,” History and Theory Theme Issue 56, December 2018
  • “Creation from Destruction: Weapon as Symbol in Japanese Mythology,” at “Ways of Seeing, Ways of Reading 2: The Aesthetics and Anthropology of Arms and Armor” (Columbia-PSL), Columbia University, 20 October 2018
  • “Dead Goddesses and Living Narratives: Variant Accounts in Early Japanese Mythology,” École Francaise d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and Scuola Italiana di Studi sull'Asia Orientale (ISEAS), Kyoto Lectures, 4 June 2018
  • “Rethinking Kana Teleology: Persistence of, and Progress Towards, Logography in the History of Japanese Writing,” at “Issues Regarding Religion and Society in Ancient and Medieval Japan,” Princeton University, 4 November 2017
  • “Linguistics as a History of Itself: The Retrospective Impulse of National Language Studies in late 19th/early 20th Century Japan,” at “Philology and the Science of Language, 1850-1950,” Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 2 June 2017
  • “The Epigraphic Archive of Early Japan: Kariya Ekisai’s Inscriptions of the Ancient Capitals (1818) and its 20th Century Sequel,” American History Association Annual Meeting, Denver, 5 January 2017
  • “The Poetics of Refrigeration in Classical Japanese Literature,” at "ICE3: An Inquiry into the Aesthetics, History, and Science of Ice," Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University, 15 April 2016
  • “Introduction: Writing, Literacy, and the Origins of Japanese Literature”; “Myth and History in the Kojiki, Nihon shoki, and Related Works”; and “Fudoki Gazetteers,” in The Cambridge History of Japanese Literature, ed. Haruo Shirane and Tomi Suzuki with David Lurie, Cambridge University Press, 2016
  • “Toward a General History of Writing: Thinking with Innis and Gelb,” talk at the Neubauer Collegium, University of Chicago, 21 February 2014
  • Sekai no mojishi to Man'yoshu [“The Man'yoshu and the World History of Writing”], Kasama Shoin, 2013
  • The Development of Japanese Writing,” in The Shape of Script: How and Why Writing Systems Change, ed. Stephen Houston, SAR Press, 2012
  • Realms of Literacy: Early Japan and the History of Writing, Harvard University Asia Center, 2011
  • "Titles of the Current Realm: Script, Language, and the Earliest Japanese Bibliographies," talk at Toronto Centre for the Book, 18 March 2011
  • "Man'yoshu no moji hyogen o kano ni suru joken (oboegaki)" (Notes on the Factors that Enable Expressive Inscription in the Man'yoshu), Kokugo to kokubungaku 84:11 (November 2007).
  • "Language, Writing, and Disciplinarity in the Critique of the 'Ideographic Myth': Some Proleptical Remarks," Language & Communication 26 (2006)
  • "Orientomology: The Insect Literature of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904)," in JAPANimals: History and Culture in Japan's Animal Life, ed. Gregory M. Pflugfelder and Brett L. Walker, University of Michigan Press, 2005.
  • "The Author Formerly Known as Prince Shotoku: Royal Authority and Narratives of Literacy in Early Japan," paper delivered, Association of Asian Studies Annual Meeting: Chicago, 3 April 2005.
  • "On the Inscription of the Hitomaro Poetry Collection: Between Literary History and the History of Writing," Man'yoshu kenkyu 26 (May 2004).
  • "Windows on Japanese Literature"; six-part monthly newspaper series introducing modern Japanese authors (Ibuse Masuji, Enchi Fumiko, Inoue Yasushi, Endo Shusaku, Abe Kobo, Ariyoshi Sawako) to English-speaking readers. Daily Mainichi: Tokyo, February-July 2000.
Research interests
  • History of writing systems
  • Cultural, intellectual, and literary history of early Japan
  • Development of reading systems and Japanese reception of Chinese texts
  • History of Japanese dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • Emergence of the hiragana and katakana syllabaries in 9th century Japan
  • Medieval and early modern commentaries on early Japanese texts
  • Early modern Japanese epigraphic and antiquarian studies
  • History of Japanese linguistic thought
  • Japanese and comparative mythology
  • World philology
Contact Information
c/o Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
407 Kent Hall
Columbia University Mail Code 3907
1140 Amsterdam Avenue
New York NY 10027

for virtual office hours 

Current and Past Courses 

Tribute to Reuben Lurie (1898-1985)

Page created 24 November 2001; revised 17 August 2021