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  • ii Japanese Contributions, 2003–2004
  • Keiko Beppu

Japanese contributions to American literary studies for this period are impressive in two respects: the retirement of the first generation of Americanists such as Shunsuke Kamei and Koji Oi generates a number of important Festschriften, and an increasing number of excellent literary and cultural studies is being produced by energetic younger scholars writing under the influence of newer critical stances, such as deconstructive, new historical, and postcolonial, and feminist criticism and queer theory.

The deaths of Edward Said, Jacques Derrida, and Leslie Fiedler occasioned special commemorative sections in EigoS, which also featured forums on themes and topics related to American literature, such as "American Indians and American Literature," "Caribbean Writers of English," and "American Literary Studies and Japanese Literature." Of particular note is the series "Why Do We Study the Literature of the Other?" contributed by Malaysian, Singaporan, Taiwanese, Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Japanese scholars and addressing the complex problem of Anglo-American literary studies as an academic discipline. The series is prefaced by Masazumi Araki's "English Studies Relocated in the New Asias" and concluded by Yoshifumi Saito's "English Literary Studies in Japan at the Crossroads." Major book publications for the year include important collections of essays on topics and themes, and significant single-authored studies of 19th- and 20th-century novelists and poets, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Plath. As usual, limited space forces this review to be selective. With a few exceptions articles are restricted to those appearing in the major [End Page 490] academic journals, EigoS, SELit, and SALit. Unless otherwise indicated all books are published in Tokyo.

a. Literary/Cultural History

Postcolonial ideology and critical theory have now penetrated Japanese academia and expanded dramatically the boundaries of literary study; it goes without saying that no single criterion or perspective dominates. It seems appropriate, then, to begin this survey with Amerika: Bungakushi/Bunkashi no Tenbo (United States of America: In Search of a Definitive Literary/Cultural History), supervised by Shunsuke Kamei and edited by Takaki Hiraishi (Shohakusha), a collection of 15 essays contributed by the so-called cohorts of "the Kamei School" to celebrate the 70th birthday of Professor Kamei, whose numerous publications have been noticed in past AmLS reviews. The volume is an ambitious attempt to come to terms with the myriad-faceted phenomenon that is America. The first four essays are rereadings of American literary history: "The Merging of Literary and Cultural History" by Jun Furuya; "Old Historicism: From Barrett Wendell to Parrington's Main Currents in American Thoughts" by Koji Oi; "After Matthiessen to Bercovitch" by Kiyohiko Murayama; and "A Kaleidoscopic Design of American Renaissance" by Tomoyuki Zettsu. The next two essays consider topographies in literary/cultural history: "Puritans and Pioneers—New England vs. the West" by Yasuo Okada and "The South in Cultural History of America" by Kazuhiko Goto. These are followed by discussions of specific sociocultural issues: "Minority Groups in American Cultural History" by Yoko Tsujimoto; "Gender in American Cultural History" by Konomi Ara; "The Question of Popular Culture" by Motoyuki Shibata; "SF in American Cultural History: The Ethics of Black Humor and the Spirit of Lynching (Re-)Public" by Takayuki Tatsumi; "Painting in American Cultural History" by Takashi Sasaki; "A Cultural History of Movie Houses in America" by Mikiro Kato; "Religion and American Culture—Changing Views on 'Millennium'" by Yasuhiro Hirai; "Music and American Culture" by Yoshiaki Sato; and "American Culture Inside Out" by Mari Yoshihara. The book concludes with Hiraishi's "Japanese Versions of the Literary History of the United States."

Takayuki Tatsumi's Amerika Bungaku-shi: Kudo-suru Monogatari no Jikukan (A Literary History of America: Writing a Road Narrative) (Keio Univ. Press) is no simple literary history of America but rather a revised and supplemented version of Tatsumi's Key Concepts in American [End Page 491] Literary History (1999), an intricate jigsaw puzzle arranged around seven key concepts: Puritanism, republicanism, Transcendentalism, Darwinism, cosmopolitanism, and post-Americanism. The volume includes illustrations and a historical chronology from the purported landing of the Vikings (985?) to the present. A bonus is the last chapter, which offers a new American canon according to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 490-505
Launched on MUSE
2006-09-19
Open Access
No
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