Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

On the Road Again

Posted in Current Events,Japanese literature,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the March 25th, 2010

Good morning from Philadelphia, where I arrived late last night to attend the Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting. I perhaps should say that I’ve “returned” to Philadelphia, since I was here on Monday and Tuesday for the NCC-3D conference, a large gathering of librarians, scholars and others who are concerned with the state of Japanese library resources in North America. As always happens when I get together with librarians and other information science people, I was impressed with the knowledge, passion, and commitment they bring to their professions. It was also exciting to learn about new developments in the field–the progress, for example, of the digitization project at Japan’s National Diet Library.

The other thing that became clear to me at the event, as it has at every recent scholarly event I’ve been to, is how much pressure everyone is facing in this time of slashed budgets, rising costs, and uncertainty about the future. These are challenging times for people who care about scholarship in North America–and in East Asia, too.

Yesterday, I was up at Princeton participating in the Workshop on Postwar Literary Criticism, the initial event in an exciting new collaborative research project that brings together faculty and students from the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Waseda University. On the morning panel, Toeda Hirokazu (Waseda) presented some very intriguing ideas about how we should bring in the issue of censorship when we rethink literary criticism from early postwar Japan. He’s one of the editors of a new series of books that collects Occupation-period censorship records, and in his talk he showed us some remarkable instances of the conditions under which Japanese writers and editors functioned in the late 1940s.

Sakakibara Richi (Waseda) spoke on the 1946-7 “Politics and Literature” debate among leftist and Marxist critics, noting the implicit rise through the course of the debate of a series of shared concepts and keywords among participants who seemingly agreed about nothing. She also traced through how those same concepts and keywords meant something very different for the participants in the debate from what they mean today. I spoke about the same “Politics and Literature” debate as an early instance of Cold War culture, situating the works of such Japanese critics as Hirano Ken, Ara Masahito, and Nakano Shigeharu alongside that of some of their contemporaries in North America. In the afternoon, we had some excellent suggestions for the papers and projects from two discussants, Victor Koschmann (Cornell) and Richard Calichman (City University of New York). Then we had another terrific session in which graduate students from the three schools presented their thoughts about how to translate and annotate texts from early postwar literary criticism in ways that will address a variety of different kinds of readers.

The joint research project is off to an exciting start. We’ll bring the group together again for another workshop in Tokyo at Waseda this summer and then wrap things up with a formal international conference at Chicago next year. It’s the sort of project that makes you feel hopeful for the future, despite all the bad news about budgets that plague academic life in both Japan and North America these days.

The agenda for today is to carry out some sightseeing in Philadelphia with my daughter and to catch a panel at AAS tonight. Tomorrow morning I’ll visit another panel or two, visit the publishers’ exhibition hall to say hello to some editors I work with, and we’ll be on a plane back to Chicago tomorrow afternoon.

Finally, say “happy birthday” to one of my childhood heroes. I’m going to have check out that new DVD set….

One Response to 'On the Road Again'

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  1. on March 29th, 2010 at 5:19 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by 河野至恩 / Shion Kono, 榊原理智. 榊原理智 said: プリンストン大学での戦後批評のワークショップについて、マイケル・ボーダッシュ氏が簡単なレポートをブログに書いてくれています。 […]