Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Dr Filippo Cervelli

Key information

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Japanese Literature (Education) Japan Research Centre Deputy Chair Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies Member
MA, PhD (Oxon)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 78984570
Support hours
By appointment


I was born in Empoli, Tuscany, a town famous worldwide for its production of artichokes and literary scholars. After a Bachelor and Master’s degree in German and English at the University of Florence, and an exchange year in the US, I came to the UK to study Japanese Literature at the University of Oxford. Having received my doctoral degree in 2018, I worked as a Teaching Fellow in Japanese at Durham University; in 2019 I joined SOAS, where I teach modern Japanese literature and methodology courses.

Broadly speaking, my research explores representations of individual and social crises across modern and contemporary Japanese literature and popular culture. My doctoral thesis examined the theme of immediacy in works in literature, manga and anime between 1995 and 2011. Immediacy indicates the supremacy of the present, submerging clear-cut notions of the past as a repository of memory, and of the future seen as progress. I argued that characters in different media live in an everlasting present where, without any solid ideologies by which to orient their lives, they can only survive by acting violently and repeatedly in the moment for their gratification, without considering issues outside of their localized personal spheres. I am currently revising my thesis manuscript for a monograph publication.

Another main strand of research is the study of narrative representations of otaku. Defined as passionate fans of popular culture products, otaku are an important phenomenon in contemporary Japanese Studies, involving considerations about Japanese youth, consumption and pop culture. In my research I explore how otaku are used as a narrative tool for interrogating Japanese society. In the context of this project, I have recently written an article and a book chapter on otaku and social malaise in the works by writer Abe Kazushige; also, with Ben Schaper I co-edited a special issue for the journal Exchanges, titled “The Lonely Nerd” on the figure of nerds and their relationship with society across cultural representations and regional areas, with the purpose of interrogating social phenomena such as isolation and the tendency towards loneliness.

I welcome proposals in modern and contemporary Japanese literature and popular culture. Comparative projects involving the Japanese and other traditions are also very welcome.


Research interests

  • Modern and contemporary Japanese literature, society and popular culture (manga, anime, videogames)
  • Narrative representations of social malaise and of phenomena such as hikikomori, otaku and precariousness
  • Medical humanities
  • Questions of literary representations and meta-literary discourse in Japanese postmodernist and post-3/11 (post-disaster) literature.
  • Themes of violence, obsessions, stimulation and sexuality portrayed in literature and popular culture, and their relationship with reader/viewer responses
  • Comparative literature: representations of war and nationalism; the relationship between centre and periphery; magical realism (Japanese, English, French, Italian and German)
  • Literary translation (Japanese, English, Italian, French)


PhD Supervision

Name Title
Suseong Park Translating the Korean War and the National Division: Reconstruction of Narratives in Korean Division Fiction


Contact Filippo