Professor Laura Moretti

Photo of Professor Laura Moretti

MA (Venice) MA(Cantab) PHD (Venice)

Official Fellow; Director of Studies in Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Professor of Early Modern Japanese Literature and Culture; Director of Postgraduate Studies (AMES)


Brought up in Northern Italy and with an ever-growing passion for languages and literature, the choice of Japanese studies came naturally. I developed my love for early modern Japanese literature during my undergraduate course at Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia. The core of my training took place in Japan, where I studied for two years at the The University of Tokyo as a research student. I was awarded my PhD at Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia in 2003. After teaching for nine years at my alma mater, I moved to the UK in 2010 and taught for two years at the School of Modern Languages at Newcastle University (UK). I joined the University of Cambride in 2012. Over the years I spent long periods in Japan and have accumulated teaching experience at different institutions including the University of British Columbia (2008), Keio University (2009), Leiden University (2009), Leuven University (

I love teaching and I have been fortunate enough to received a few teaching prizes.

  • 2019: Pilkington Prizes in recognition of contribution to excellence in teaching at Cambridge.
  • 2019: CUSU student-led teaching award in the category of Undergraduate Supervisor (School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences).
  • 2015: CUSU Teaching Award for outstanding lecturer.

A message to prospective students interested in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies:

If you like challenges, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is the right course for you. We welcome students from all backgrounds, who are passionate about mastering complex languages and becoming experts in cultures that are key to the 21st century. Emmanuel is an ideal college to pursue this course: you become part of a warm community of likely-minded colleagues, you are supported by caring staff, and you live at the very heart of Cambridge. If you choose Japanese Studies you will also have the opportunity to participate in the exciting Rikkyo-Emmanuel Exchange, unique to Cambridge.

You can see some of our students and myself "in action" in a number of videos hosted on the Faculty YouTube channel for Japanese studies.

For more information about any aspect of the course please feel free to contact me at:

Teaching Interests


Prof Moretti teaches a number of undergraduate papers:

1) Translation classes for first-year students.

2) Classical Japanese for second-year students and advanced classical Japanese for final-year students.

3) Japanese pre-modern literature for second-year students and for final year students.

She has supervised several undergraduate and graduate dissertations in the field of pre-modern and early-modern Japanese literature.


Prof Moretti welcomes graduate students interested in Japanese premodern and early modern literature. She also strongly encourages projects that investigate early modern Japanese culture more broadly, including visual culture and woodblock prints; book history and/or textual scholarship in Japan; Japanese palaeography and calligraphy. She is also keen to supervise projects that work on issues of adaptation, canon-making, intervisuality, playfulness, humour, satire, metafiction, didactic prose, medicine in popular culture, and transmedia storytelling.


Prof Moretti's desire to train a new generation of young scholars who can read early-modern Japanese archival materials in their original format as led Prof Moretti to start the Graduate Summer School in Japanese Early-modern Palaeography in 2014. It runs every year in the first two weeks of August and attracts a high number of graduate students from all over the world.


Prof Laura Moretti's research focusses on early modern Japanese popular literature and culture. Prof Moretti's projects are inherently interdisiplinary, placed at the intersection of literature, art history, book history, textual scholarship, and palaeography. Working with both books and visual media, including woodblock prints and board games, and combining rigorous close reading of a wide range of archival materials with bold intellectual arguments, Prof Moretti's research challenges our understanding of literature and wishes to retrieve textual traditions that have been silenced after the encounter of Japanese literature with "modernity". Dr Moretti's research covers a wide span of time, moving from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century.

Prof Moretti's first book in English, Recasting the Past: An Early Modern Tales of Ise for Children (Brill, 2016) focusses on how a canonical text of Japanese court literature has been infused with new life in the second half of the eighteenth century when it was remediated as a piece of graphic narrative. Her second book, Pleasure in Profit. Popular Prose in Seventeenth-Century Japan (Columbia University Press, 2020) has been named a 2021 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and was shortlisted for the 2021 DeLong Book History Prize. The first comprehensive study of the birth of Japanese commercial publishing, this monograph recasts books as tools for knowledge making, arguing that popular prose engaged its audience cognitively as well as aesthetically and emotionally to satisfy a burgeoning curiosity about the world. Crucially, it shows that readers experienced entertainment within the didactic, finding pleasure in the profit gained from acquiring knowledge by interacting with transformative literature.

Prof Moretti is now embarking on a new project that revolves around play and playful reading in early modern Japan. In this project Prof Moretti explores books and ephemera that delighted readers with riddles, rebuses, visual and verbal puzzles, jokes, board games, magic tricks, invented script, and much more. The ultimate goal of the project is to explore a mode of reading that differs from aesthetic or efferent; a mode of reading that enables play and gifts readers with rewarding moments of insight. Alongside this project and working with a Japanese colleague from The University of Tokyo, Dr Moretti is also currently editing an edited volume tentatively titled Grass Books. Graphic Narratives from Early Modern Japan. Briging together a remarkable group of authoritative scholars in the field, the volume explores the complex nature of seventeenth, eighteenth, and ninteenth century graphic narratives, investigating connections with the world of ukiyo-e, theatre, literary modernity, manga, and comix.

Every year Prof Moretti's runs the Summer School in Early-modern Japanese Palaeography. Over the course of eight years she has trained more than 250 young scholars in how to decode, transcribe, and translate early modern Japanese archivale materials. In 2023 the summer school will celebrate the tenth anniversary. The recent collaboration with prof Hashimoto Yuta and his AI-powered transcription platform is fuelling Prof Moretti's interest in digital humanities applied to early modern Japanese literature.

For a list of her publications and of her research project please access her Faculty webpage.