Potential topics

Potential topics in the volume

While the overall content will be determined by the proposals accepted, there are multiple possibilities for the volume. For example, the professor of a course on war and memory in either history or English may be interested in some examples of translated Japanese literature to help balance out the perspectives she might be familiar with already. Other instructors might be interested in something new to add to their courses regardless of country of origin. I have included two brief examples below.

Students in a course on war may be intrigued to find work extremely critical of Japanese militarists (such as that by Ōoka Shōhei or Kojima Nobuo) when the dominant understanding of Japan is that it has not sufficiently apologized for its wartime atrocities. Even more surprising might be Hirabayashi Taiko’s “Blind Chinese Soldiers,” which condemns the general public for their blindness toward and complicity in atrocities perpetrated by the military. Several novels by Murakami Haruki also deal with war memory in complex ways. These critical texts about the war could be paired with Mishima Yukio’s short stories and novels that glorify militarism as an authentic and aesthetic form of masculinity. Comparisons with English language literature would also be fruitful. Ōoka’s work could be compared with James Jones’ Thin Red Line, for example, to look at two views of common soldiers on opposite sides in the same battles. Work in English on the atomic bomb by Kazuo Ishiguro, John Hershey, or Shirley Hazard could be compared with that by Hara Tamiki, Ibuse Masuji or Ōta Yōko.

Someone teaching a course in gender and sexuality might enjoy being introduced to The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P by Matsuura Rieko. In this novel, the protagonist wakes up one morning to find that her big toe has transformed into a penis. She embarks on a journey of sexual self discovery that includes joining a traveling freak show. Matsuura is well versed in feminist critical theory and her work is best read in conjunction with Butler and others. Other works of interest for such a class include Yamada Amy’s and Kōno Taeko’s explorations of S/M or Kanai Mieko’s bizarre short story “Rabbits,” which deals with incest and the erotic possibilities of rabbit carcasses.

Some non-specialist teachers might look to Japan (and this volume) for another perspective on actual events, others for something different. While the volume will explore famous and canonical works for these people, I would hope that each chapter in the completed volume would also have something to offer teachers well versed in postwar Japanese literature. Whereas specialists will be familiar with Mishima, Ōoka and Matsuura, this volume can offer particular techniques for using their work written by skilled teachers with practical experience teaching using these texts in the classroom.

In addition to these topics and others mentioned in the call for papers and the possible table of contents, other possibilities might include:

  • Politics and literature
  • Classical allusion in postwar literature
  • Philosophy and Japanese literature
  • Spirituality and Japanese literature
  • Japanese literature and food
  • Family life in Japanese literature
  • Coming of age and youth culture
  • Teaching cinematic adaptations of Japanese literature
  • Japanese Science fiction
  • Genre and Japanese fiction
  • Contemporary Japanese literature
  • Teaching manga as literature