In pym's footsteps: Poe, ooka, and Ballard

Takayuki Tatsumi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the 1970s I have been attracted by Poe’s one and only novel, Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), with its apparently disorganized but radically self-referential narrative that seemed, then, to represent allegories of speech and writing. Even in the 2010s this novel requires us to reread its textuality. For the year 2015 saw a coincidence between Ron Howard’s film In the Heart of the Sea and Shinya Tsukamoto’s Fires on the Plain (1952), the latter film based on the original novel written by the postwar Japanese mainstream novelist Shohei Ooka (1909–1988), a big fan of Poe’s Pym. It was Ooka’s Fires on the Plain that inspired that major British speculative fiction writer J. G. Ballard (1930–2009) to write one of his early major novels, The Drowned World (1962), and other stories. If my first reading of Pym in the 1980s was deconstructive, my second one in the 1990s New Historicist, my third rereading in the 2010s aims to contribute to transnational literary history. It is not necessarily the case that Poe directly produced his literary descendants, but it is highly possible that the psychic and traumatized borders of Ooka’s mind-scape in wartime and Ballard’s techno-scape in our hyper-capitalist age continue to elaborate anew the way we read the picturesque art of Poe’s nineteenth-century landscape garden and his narrators’ crowded interior spaces for our twenty-first century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-125
Number of pages16
JournalEdgar Allan Poe Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 1


  • Cannibalism
  • J.G.Ballard
  • Pym
  • Shohei Ooka
  • Transnational literary history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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