Confronting ‟Unforeseen” Disasters: Yōko Tawada’s Surrealist and Animistic Poetics

Tara Beaney* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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If our current environmental predicament, and recent catastrophes such as the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in 2011, can be diagnosed as partly a crisis of the imagination, then radical action is needed. Ecopoetics can help by directing attention to the agentic properties of matter, and to the sometimes unexpected ways in which chains of events are brought about, through principles of both randomness and design. In Yōko Tawada’s literary work, chance intra-actions between human and material agencies lead to a variety of surprising, surreal scenarios. Focusing on an array of Tawada’s texts, with particular attention to her post-Fukushima novel, The Last Children of Tokyo (2018, Japanese original Kentōshi, 2014), this article argues that Tawada’s emphasis on the random and unexpected can provide a valuable ecopoetic perspective, serving both as political critique and as contribution to new materialist thought. Attention to material and linguistic agency is central to Tawada’s surrealist and animistic poetics, which foregrounds what she describes as ‟language magic”—language as an agentic force of its own with a propensity for generating unexpected effects. By situating Tawada’s post-Fukushima writing in the context of her wider work, I argue that her approach can help us to move to a less anthropocentric and agent-centric perspective through paying attention to the creative potential of language and matter, and to how these generate effects through processes of both randomness and design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-98
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Yōko Tawada
  • animism
  • environmental disaster
  • ecopoetics
  • surrealism
  • randomness
  • design
  • materialism
  • agency


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