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Hermeneutics of Evil in the Works of Endō Shūsaku

Between Reading and Writing

Justyna Weronika Kasza

Evil is a salient component of Endō Shūsaku’s writing. Questions surrounding evil haunted the writer as a student of French literature, having discovered the works of Western authors like François Mauriac and Georges Bernanos. It is around the problem of evil that Endō would create his most renowned novels and the cross-cultural dimensions of the questions he posed on the nature of evil would make him one of the most widely translated Japanese authors.
This study offers new insight into the intellectual and artistic development of the author by focusing on a lesser known yet significant body of work: his essays and critical texts. The book is, on the one hand, an attempt to follow the path of thinking delineated by Endō Shūsaku himself and, on the other, a methodological approach to literary studies based on the application of selected categories of Paul Ricœur’s hermeneutics. Thus, the book accentuates the problem of subjectivity and personhood in Endō’s works, ultimately exploring the question, Who is the one who asks about evil?
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Literary theories that have re-evaluated the notion of the ‘author’ and the notion of the ‘literary work’, shifting the main focus of interpretation onto the endless textuality, do not reflect on the status of the writing persona and reject any possible relation between the work and its author.

The problem of ‘authorship’ – as this could be identified as the core of the present day literary theories – is a problem of literary intention. It can be subsumed by a simple question: is the literary text free of authorial intention or not? One could ask even further: ‘Who is the author?’ ‘What is his/its function?’ Does the literary product need its creator once completed? What is the role of the biographical or contextual information in guiding the reader in approaching the text? These are only a few samples of the questions around ‘authorship’ and they do not exhaust the complexity of the topic.

Since the announcement of the ‘death of the author’ by Roland Barthes in 1968, literary criticism has been struggling to establish a new paradigm of thinking about the author as the writing subject. Barthes’s essay anticipated the forthcoming crisis of subjectivity and the necessity for a substantial revision of the subject within literature, philosophy (Foucault; Derrida) or in the social sciences (Althusser).

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