Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Japan Seminar: What is Black Literature and Can You Write It in Japanese?: On the Borders of Black/Japanese Literature

Mon, November 21, 2011 | Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM

"a3 blackface #2" by Iona Brown

What is black literature and can you write it in Japanese?  Although seemingly removed from the "central" inquiries of Japan Studies, it should come as no surprise that 20th-century Japanese authors--who spent the first half of the century both in fear and emulation of America's imperial desires and the second half under American (political, economic, cultural, linguistic and psychic) occupation--have taken up these two inquiries on numerous occasions.  The postwar period in particular saw a significant uptick in the number of Japanese authors who read, translated, interpreted, critiqued, and ultimately incorporated African American literary tropes and techniques into their literature as a mode of protest against the cultural and linguistic hegemony of both American and mainstream Japanese discourse on Japanese identity.  Evoking authors such as Oe Kenzaburo, Nakagami Kenji and Yamada Eimi as points of departure, this talk considers the insights postwar Japanese authors have provided vis-a-vis the aforementioned inquiries: can Japanese authors write literature in the Japanese language that is black in its thematics, techniques, ethics and sociopolitics and, if so, how does this challenge the very definition of black literature itself?

William Bridges specializes in 20th-century Japanese literature. His dissertation, Playing in the Shadows: Blackness and the Postwar Japanese Literary Imagination, investigates the role of African American literature and literati in the production of postwar Japanese literature. His research interests include modern Japanese literature, modern African American literature, literary theory, and race and ethnic studies.

Please download the Center for East Asian Studies fall seminar series PDF to view upcoming events.

Sponsored by: Center for East Asian Studies

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