Recent work in cognitive psychology and literary studies has begun to challenge the traditional understanding of consciousness as something necessarily located in the depths of what literary scholars like to call "interiority." Queer theorists have long made similar claims about human desire, arguing that it does not well up from our "insides" but rather emerges in narrative and through structures of triangulation, displacement, and identification. In this talk, I explore some parallels between these two approaches. I argue that modern Japanese literature–in which "interiority" itself, along with the very distinction between first and third-person narration, are said to be recent inventions–offers fertile ground to explore just how it is that we think we know the minds and desires of others, and ourselves.
J. Keith Vincent is Assistant Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature at Boston University. He is the author of Two-Timing Modernity: Homosocial Narrative and Modern Japanese Fiction (Cambridge: Harvard Asia Center, 2012.)