Japanese Texts in Motion: Translation, Circulation, and Institutions in the Early Twentieth Century

Person in Charge
Shion Kono ( TEL: 03-3238-4054 [after April 1, 2013] / E-mail shion@sophia.jp )

Other FLA and non-FLA Sophia faculty involved
Noriko Murai ( nmurai@sophia.ac.jp )
Mathew Thompson ( mwthompson@sophia.ac.jp )
Angela Yiu ( a-yiu@sophia.ac.jp )

Short Statement of the Goals and Purposes

Debates on “world literature” in comparative literature in the last twenty years or so brought renewed attention to the ways in which literary values are created away from the point of origin. David Damrosch’s definition of world literature as “literature that gains in translation” succinctly makes this point. Damrosch and others discuss how the meaning is created in the process of circulation and translation of literary texts, instead of merely tracing the meaning of the texts back to the moment of creation. In other words, the examination of circulation and translation offers a critical insight into the act of interpretation itself. The debates also highlight the geographical, institutional, and methodological diversity of interpreting literary texts, despite the apparent unity of a global literary market.

This renewed focus on circulation and translation of literature can provide a fresh perspective into the studies of Japanese literature and Japanese texts in general. We wish to examine various aspects of the global flow of texts, people and ideas related to “Japanese texts” in the early twentieth century. First, we wish to examine early translation of Japanese literature into European and Asian languages (focusing on the period between the 1900s and the 1940s). The translation affects the reading and writing of the original literary texts, as writers such as Ōgai Mori were highly conscious of the possibility of their works being translated. Also, texts of Japanese bilingual writers such as Kakuzō Okakura and Yone Noguchi circulated across national borders, contributing to the construction of the images of “Japanese culture” within and outside Japan.

We are particularly interested in the role of various institutions involved in the circulation of Japanese texts. For examples, availability of Japanese texts (written in European languages or in translation) were linked with the transformation of academic disciplines related to Asian culture and the rise of Japanese studies in the West in the early twentieth century. The international network of publishers, writers, and institutions (private and governmental) was also significant. We hope to illuminate the roles of these institutions and their networks in the early twentieth century.

We envision this project to be translingual, transcultural and interdisciplinary. Given the potential scope, the collaboration of scholars with different linguistic and cultural expertise is vital. We also hope to invite scholars in disciplines outside of literature, searching for approaches to illuminate various aspects of this phenomenon.

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July 17, 2014
Lecture: From Fear to Beauty: The Materiality of Writing and the Early History of Japanese-English Translation
by Michael Emmerich
January 23, 2015
Lecture: Rethinking Circulation of Japanese-Language Books between Japan and its Oversea Territories before the World War II
March 7, 2015
International Workshop on "Translation and Shared Literary Imagination in the Early Twentieth Century"

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March 8th, 2014
Workshop on Trajectories of ‘Japanese’ Texts in the Early Twentieth Century

Venue: Room 301, 3F, Building 10 Sophia University Yotsuya Campus
Time: 13:00-17:30
Program: Click here for a PDF

This project is also supported by Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) #23720187