This roundtable, sponsored by the Modern Languages Association, takes the occasion of the MLA’s new volume on teaching postwar Japanese fiction (its first centered on Japanese literature) to discuss the changing roles of Japanese literature in the classroom. Anecdotal evidence suggests that canonical surveys of “great books” from postwar Japan have decreased and more courses take a thematic approach. Furthermore, literary works from Japan have moved beyond the Japanese literature classroom to engage with and enrich other disciplines from gender studies to history to environmental studies and even to the bastion of the anglophone, English.
This roundtable highlights the different uses Japanese literary texts could be put toward in an array of contexts. It brings together contributors from each section of the volume: border crossings; gender, sexuality and domesticity; war and memory; nature and the environment; and classroom contexts. In the volume, Christina Yi explores “the benefits and potential problems of teaching courses through the lens of “Japanese-language” literary studies.” Joanne Quimby takes one novel, Matsuura Rieko’s The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P, and shows its use in “gender studies, literary theory, world/comparative literature, not to mention Japanese literature courses.” Alex Bates explores the literature of Japanese war crimes and “the practice of and the ethics involved in teaching these works.” Rachel DiNitto uses fiction representing Japan’s triple disasters of March 11, 2011 “to engage Japanese literature in larger theoretical, disciplinary, and regional frameworks.” Gary Rees, coming from an English department, shows how the work of Murakami Haruki engages with “Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Postcolonialism, Feminism, Gender Studies and Post Structuralism” in a course designed to teach literary theory to English majors.
Panelists will briefly introduce their contributions and then engage in a larger discussion with each other and the audience about the places and the possibilities of Japanese literature in diverse classroom settings.