Japanese Texts in Motion: Translation, Circulation, and Institutions in the Early Twentieth Century (2016)

Person in Charge
Shion Kono (TEL: 03-3238-4054 / E-mail shion@sophia.jp)

Other FLA and non-FLA Sophia faculty involved
Noriko Murai (nyeskel@gmail.com)
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 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.

Proposed Activities and Expected Research Outcomes
In 2016, we will enter the fourth year of this project as an ICC research unit. During the Academic Year 2015, we organized a day of workshop on July 18, entitled Translation and Japanese literary studies. We will also have begun the process of finalizing the list of authors and texts for an edited volume (or volumes, depending on whether we will publish in Japanese, English, or both). Additionally, we also plan to organize a workshop revolving around the launching of a web-based collection of English translations of critical writings in Japanese, as an informed intervention into the current states of “Japanese texts in motion.”

In 2016, we would like to concentrate on compiling the research outcome of the research unit into publication. As of the writing of this proposal (September 2015) we have begun discussing options for publication in Japanese and in English. We will like to see the completion of the edited volume in Japanese. Publishers under consideration include Shunpu-sha and Bensei Shuppan. We are also currently exploring options to publish a similar (if not identical) set of papers in English, either as a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal or as a stand-alone anthology from an academic press. We have already spoken with editors at Japan Forum; and Review of Japanese Culture of Society (as a special issue) and the “New Studies in Modern Japan” series at Rowman and Littlefield (as an edited volume) are also being considered as possible publication venues for this project. We hope to see the publication of a Japanese volume by the end of Academic Year 2016 and make substantial progress in a publication project in English.

We would also continue our existing research collaboration, one of which is the translation project for critical writings in Japanese, as mentioned above.

The list of proposed activities for Academic Year 2016 includes the following:
1. At the beginning of the academic year, we will form an editorial board for this publishing project. We plan to set a deadline for the final manuscript submission for the collected volume in the summer of 2016. We will edit the papers for possible publications in Japanese and in English (to be determined).
2. We would like to organize a follow-up workshop or a working group meeting on the ongoing project of a web-based collection of English translations of critical Japanese texts.
3. Depending on the outcome of the above described project, this ICC unit may serve as the temporary and initial platform for this web-based project, which, in the future, will be transferred to another, more permanent base, most likely at a North American university with a strong institutional support in Japanese Studies.
4. We might also organize a workshop or lectures on related topics, as a continuation of ongoing collaboration.

Plans for Presentation of Findings
Since its inception, the goal of this collaborative research project has been to publish an edited volume on the topic. In 2016, as stated above, we would like to make substantial progress in publishing plans. Particularly, we hope to see a Japanese edited volume published by the end of the academic year. We would have made a decision about this by the end of 2015, and will proceed accordingly.

The last three years of the ICC research activities have produced a strong set of interesting papers, in bringing together scholars from various disciplines including literature, art history, and history, and working in a wide range of languages and areas. In the fourth year, we hope to bring to conclusion these research findings of the past three years in the form of a publication.
The proposed web-based translation project, on the other hand and if materialized, will serve the broader English-language community of Japanese Studies, and may lead us to a new collaborative research project.

Relationship to Ongoing Projects
This project is a continuation of Kono’s past JSPS Grant-in-Aid Project (Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B): April 2011- March 2015).