Hibakusha Poets as Public Intellectuals

Noam Chomsky has argued that the most effective public intellectuals are dissident intellectuals who act from the margins.  The US censorship of public discussion of the bombings during the Allied Occupation of Japan ensured that the public did not understand all that had occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  This lack of discussion about the A-bomb and the scientific testing on hibakusha saw them stigmatised, however this marginalisation makes them powerful public intellectuals.  Hibakusha poets such as Toge and Kurihara offer a kind of authentic ‘evidencing’ and recording of the horror of the events of the atomic bombing.   The simplicity and accessibility of these poems are essential to the public dissemination of their message, however this has worked against their preservation in the literary canon.  This is, in part, because the literary canon prioritises a greater sophistication of language and range of poetic techniques.  This book examines the way in which hibakusha poets can be recognised as public intellectuals.  It hinges on a number of considerations centred on public intellectualism, canonicity and use of language.


Miyazaki Hayao as Reluctant Public Intellectual

This book of essays analyses the Studio Ghibli anime that is written and directed by Miyazaki: Castle in the Sky, Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, The Wind Rises and the short film, Mr Dough and the Egg Princess.

While Miyazaki is reclusive, he is in constant filmic dialogue with his audience, and it is through his anime that his views as an intellectual are made public.  He emphasises the importance of Japanese community and environment in his anime and illustrates that although the Japanese mostly live in urban environments, they have a deep reverence for nature.  This is seen in the enduring appeal of Shinto.  Miyazaki recalls a time before nature was threatened by technology and pollution and uses an appeal to memory, imagination and the younger generation to buffer the negative impact of innovation.


Pikadon: Post-Atomic Alice

with Alyson Miller and Phil Day
[funded by a VicArts Grant].

This graphic verse novel combines the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb being dropped on  Hiroshima with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Alice will go down the rabbit-hole and find herself in the wasteland of Hiroshima, forced to renegotiate a world where little makes sense and the power of technology is the new force with which to be reckoned.


Sketch-notes-book-coverSketch Notes with artist and publisher, Phil Day.

This project is described as, ‘prose poems by Cassandra Atherton and picture paintings by Phil Day’.




Wise Guys: The Changing Role of the Public Intellectual

‘It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.’ Noam Chomsky’s famous remark from his 1967 article in the New York Review of Books is still, perhaps, the best description of the role of the public intellectual today.  It is certainly the most quoted.  It is appropriate to start any discussion of public intellectuals with Chomsky.  His name is the one most often invoked in discussions of contemporary public intellectuals, certainly in this climate where even the existence of public intellectuals has been called into question, or, as Posner’s infamous book argues, is “in decline”, Chomsky stands as proof that the public intellectual is not extinct, but rather changing and adapting to new technologies.

This book investigates the role of the public intellectual in America.  In a series of critical essays and case studies, Wise Guys focuses, first, on the history of the public intellectual and then on questions of responsibility and a public intellectual’s place in contemporary society.  This book enters the debate led by Russell Jacoby and Richard Posner concerning the death of the public intellectual and posits the re-birth of the public intellectual in the New Media.  This book uses Atherton’s interviews with public intellectuals to inform her discussions.



ClevelandamoryWhimsy (novel)

This novel, in its early stages, explores the relationship between the protagonist Whimsy, Cleveland Amory and his cat Polar Bear.  Whimsy owns a no-kill cat shelter in Virginia and forms a relationship with one of America’s most memorable dilettantes and animal rights crusaders.  Amory’s famous books include, The Cat Who Came For Christmas and The Bostonians.  Atherton references his publications in her novel.