Professor Backus joined UCSB in 1966 and was in charge of the Japanese program ever since then until he retired in 1992. His primary fields are in Japanese intellectual history, and the major theme of his research is Confucianism in Tokugawa Japan. He is also interested in classical Japanese language and literature. He offered a wide range of courses in early and modern Japanese language, literature and culture. He made vital efforts to increase strength of the Japanese program, and helped expand the “oriental section” of the former Department of Germanic, Oriental and Slavic Languages and Literatures into the current East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies Department.
- “The Relationship of Confucianism to the Togugawa Bakufu as Revealed in the Kansei Educational Reform,”Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1974.
- “The Kansei Prohibition of Heterodoxy and Its Effects on Education,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1979.
- “The Motivation of Confucian Orthodoxy in Tokugawa Japan,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1979.
- “Warlords, Artists, and Commoners: Japan in the Sixteenth Century,” Monumenta Nipponica 37.1 (1982): pp. 130-133.
- The Riverside Counselor’s Stories. Stanford University Press, 1985.
- “Matsudaira Sadanobu and Samurai Education,” In 18th Century Japan, Ed. C. Andrew Gerstle (Sydney: Allen & Unwin), pp. 132-152.
- “Tsukada Taiho on the Way and Virtue, Part One: Career and Scholarship,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies: 50.1: 1990, pp. 5-69.
- “Tsukada Taih? on the Way and Virtue, Part Two: Attaining the Gates to the Way of the Sage,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 50:2 (1990): pp. 505-566.