- International Scholarshipiii Japanese Contributions, 2011–2012
Contributions to American literary studies for this period are substantial, with more emphasis on modern and postmodern studies. In separate sections devoted to each of the two years of coverage, our survey organizes these contributions into five representative categories: single-author books, collected essays, literary introductions and encyclopedias, translation and translation studies, and journal articles. [End Page 444] Because our review must be selective, priority goes to single-author books and to articles appearing in the four major academic journals: Studies in English Literature (SELit); Studies in English Literature, English Number (SELitE); Studies in American Literature (SALit); and Journal of American Literature Society of Japan (JALSJ), the English-language version of SALit. Unless otherwise indicated, all books and journals are published in Tokyo.
a. 2011 Publications
It was a fruitful year for publications on individual authors, especially Nabokov and Pynchon. Translation and translation studies enhanced understanding through close reading. New introductory books on American literature and culture added new perspectives to multicultural and local and global studies, paving the way for new takes on critical approaches.
Yoshihiko Kihara, translator of Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, has published Pinchon no “Gyakko” o Yomu—Kukan to Jikan, Hikari to Yami (Reading Pynchon’s “Against the Day”: Space and Time, Light and Darkness) (Sekaishiso-sha), an example of a wonderful by-product of translation. In this first Japanese scholarly monograph on the novel, Kihara provides a step-by-step analysis of Pynchon’s world that in itself entails encyclopediac background knowledge. Kihara develops his study based on writings by scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers, including William Hamilton, George Cantor, Peter Sloterdijk, and Richard Rorty. The interdisciplinary framework Kihara works out helps to reveal the tightly knit and multilayered structures in Pynchon’s text. The “database” on which Pynchon’s world is built embraces both actual and fictional elements; Kihara calls it “database realism” or “a new realism.” An additional synopsis and timeline of the novel at the end of Kihara’s volume are useful. Another notable achievement in Pynchon studies is Keita Hatooka’s Pinchon no Dobutsuen (A Menagerie of Representations: Thomas Pynchon’s Place between Postmodernism and Eco-criticism) (Suisei-sha), in which the animals in Pynchon’s work are significant clues to interpreting the world from both postmodern and ecocritical viewpoints. While other Pynchon scholars have focused on issues of gender, race, nation, and history, to single out animals, or nonhuman life, is intriguing. Hatooka discusses the transformational use of animals throughout Pynchon’s novels and argues that Pynchon’s world viewed as a menagerie represents the postmodern world. Humans assume that they know animals, but in fact they never [End Page 445] know their gaze. At the end of Mason and Dixon “an animal” opens its eyes and gazes at the men, though the men are unaware of its gaze, and this, Pynchon writes, is “America.” This gaze, Hatooka argues, evokes an awareness of the interplay between animals and humans, overwriting the postmodern landscape with an ecocritical consciousness.
An outstanding Vladimir Nabokov study, Shusuke Akikusa’s Nabokofu Yakusu nowa “Watashi”—Jiko Honyaku ga Hiraku Tekusuto (Nabokov, Translation Is Mine: How Self-translation Creates the Text) (Tokyo Univ. Press), explores the question of translation, or “self-translation,” in Nabokov. This study opens a new horizon of criticism in American bilingual literature (i.e., fiction by such bilingual authors as Joseph Conrad; Samuel Beckett; Isaac Bashevis Singer; Yoko Tawada, a Japanese who writes in Japanese and German; and Hideo Levy, an American who writes in English and Japanese). Akikusa compares Nabokov’s “self-translated” stories in both Russian and English, discussing what is lost and gained in Nabokov’s highly self-conscious translation literature. He reads Nabokov’s well-wrought text as a skillful detective would do, inside and out, never missing the slightest hint inlaid in or behind the text. His publication further raises the possibility of merging translation, criticism, and comparative literary studies into a new scholarly genre. Akikusa is the first Japanese scholar in a position to approach Nabokov from both Russian and English perspectives. The doctoral dissertation on which his book was based...