Van C. Gessel is a professor of Japanese in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern languages at Brigham Young University. He is a former dean of the College of Humanities at BYU. Prior to joining the faculty at BYU, he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and prior to that he was an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame and Columbia University. He holds a PhD from Columbia University.
Gessel was a literary advisor for Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s novel Silence. In March 2017 he introduced the film at BYU’s International Cinema and discussed the novel, the history of the film and the universality of the Christian themes found in the story. Silence follows two Portuguese Catholic priests, Fathers Rodrigues and Garupe, into Japan at a time when being a Christian in Japan was punishable by torture and death.
He has written extensively on 20th-century Japanese fiction, Japanese Christian writers, and Japanese drama.
Gessel is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He co-edited, with Reid Neilson, a volume of essays titled, “Taking the Gospel to the Japanese: 1901 to 2001. From 2005 to 2008 he presided over the Portland, Oregon Mission.