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January 31, 2020 – Print, Power and Parable Speaker Series

Jan. 31 – Rebecca Copeland (Washington University in St. Louis)

Friday, January 31, 4 PM
Pugh 170

Thinking Back Through Mythical Mothers: Modern Japanese Women Writers Retell the Past

In her famous line from “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf invites women writers to think back through their mothers—biological, literary, and imaginative. In so doing, she disrupts the heterosexual dyad of male poet-female muse and authorizes a maternal source for inspiration. In this paper, I will discuss the way Japanese women writers have often turned to mythic mothers as a way to legitimize their creativity. From Izanami, to Kishimojin, to the yamamba, these potent images of both nurture and destruction have invited women writers to explore alternate forms of power, sexuality, and social entitlement. Authors to consider will include Kurahashi Yumiko, Ōba Minako, and Kirino Natsuo.

Feb 14. – Melek Ortabasi (Simon Fraser University)

Friday, February 14, 4 PM
Pugh 170

The Wonderful Adventures of Western Children’s Classics in the East

World literature is what happens when literary works travel from their point of origin. How does children’s literature behave differently from “adult” literature when it moves among and across borders? This lecture will examine three influential and highly regarded children’s “classics” – all written over a century ago – and trace their journeys to Japan. American “girls’ books” writer Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868); former soldier and popular Italian travelogue writer Edmondo De Amici’s Cuore (Heart, 1886); and Swedish Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf’s Nils Holgerssons underbara resa (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, 1907) were wildly popular at home and abroad. Through a comparative analysis of these works and their translations into Japanese, we will discover how these works of world children’s literature also became “classics” for Japanese children.

Gusdtav Heldt, University of Virginia

Friday, April 03, 4 PM
Pugh 170

Waka Poetry’s Myths of Origin

For centuries after its initial articulation in the Kokinshū anthology, the waka tradition asserted it began with the god Susa-no-o’s song at Izumo. At the same time, this claim to authority was contingent on a longstanding consensus that Japan’s “age of the gods” in general and its songs in particular were constantly open to reinscription. This paper will trace the multiple and occasionally conflicting myths of waka poetry’s origins in the prefaces to the first imperial anthology and its interpolated commentary while considering how these narratives can be further fleshed out by attention to the surviving corpus of song-texts from the age of the gods that are included in the mytho-histories Nihon shoki and Kojiki.


Talks sponsored by the Japan Foundation and the University of Florida Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere
For questions or concerns, contact Prof. Christopher Smith or Prof. Matthieu Felt