Nuclear Criticism and a Deferred Reading of the Toho Terror

  • Michael J. Blouin


In 1984, a group of scholars from a variety of disciplines gathered at Cornell to discuss the role of theory in ongoing discussions surrounding the issue of nuclear proliferation. Their collective goal, as stated in the introduction to the diacritics issue based upon the proceedings was straightforward: “Critical theory ought to be making a more important contribution to the public discussion of nuclear issues” (Klein, 2). The dialogue on that summer day, however, was much less straightforward. Attempts to establish framework for Nuclear Criticism, granting it cohesion, never quite materialized. Instead, the conversation re-enforced a growing gap perceived between the legacy of New Criticism and a public with seemingly “real” concerns, such as total war. Twenty years later, at the University of Kansas, a different group of intellectuals gathered, this time to discuss Godzilla, the cinematic child of the nuclear event. Their goal was likewise clearly articulated in the introduction of the resultant book, In Godzilla’s Footsteps (2006), as a desire to position the big green signifier “within a matrix of meaning-laden cultural references and political valences” (Tsutsui and Ito 2006, 5). Although Nuclear Criticism as an area of inquiry does not overtly appear in these discussions, the uncertainties surrounding how to read “nuclear texts” were awoken once more, as though from a deep slumber in some Pacific basin.


Atomic Bomb Nuclear Event Emphasis Mine Nuclear Issue Nuclear Text 
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  1. 1.
    For more, see Steve Ryfle’s extensive Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the “Big G” (Toronto: ECW Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See also K. K. Ruthven’s Nuclear Criticism (Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 1993).Google Scholar

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© Michael J. Blouin 2013

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  • Michael J. Blouin

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