Open Seminar

Vol. 8.

Loft Spaces

  • Date: 11th March 2019, 15:30-17:30
  • Venue: No. 1 Conference Room, 3F, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo (free entry, advance registration not required)
  • Speaker: Katsuya Sugawara (Deputy Director, General Library; Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

In this seminar, we will examine the mental imagery inspired by loft spaces, referred to as a mansarde, grenier, or combles in French and as an attic or garret in English.

Once the loft spaces necessitated by roof structures were turned into rooms and began to be occupied by impoverished young people and artists (often called "Bohemians"), these spaces began to exert a powerful stimulus on the human imagination. Lofts became places where dreams were born, nurtured, and destroyed. One only has to recollect Puccini's opera La Bohème.

Exploring images of loft spaces in literature, we can find a variety of examples in the literature of the UK, France, Germany, and Russia, among others. They are places in which not only artists, but also lunatics and murderers lurk.
Astonishingly, imagery associated with loft spaces was also found in Taisho-era Japan. Countless loft spaces sprang up in Tokyo amid the ruins of the Great Kanto Earthquake.

In this seminar, we hope to discuss from the perspective of comparative literary research the mental imagery inspired by loft spaces that was carried through to Showa-era Japan.