- International ScholarshipJapanese Contributions, 2013–2014
The American Literature Society of Japan celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. In Studies in American Literature, which also commemorated its 50th issue that year, the history of American literature studies in Japan and its achievements were remembered and assessed in congratulatory essays by the current president, honorary members, and members of the editorial board. The president, Takayuki Tatsumi, looked back on the past 50 years and remarked that the society has evolved from a rudimentary stage of adaptation and translation to a sophisticated, uniquely international and transnational organization. Japanese contributions to American literary studies for this period testify to such a declaration. Critics deftly equipped with broad knowledge in literature and criticism today read with awareness of the issues of politics, gender, and race in an increasingly globalizing world. In addition, the Great East Japan Earthquake, which attacked the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011, and its aftermath, the tsunami and destruction of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, inflicted serious consequences not just on the people of the region but on the entire country. This crisis has motivated many scholars to reflect on issues of disaster and violence, and significant books have resulted. (These materials receive their own section in this review.)
Because we must be selective, priority goes to single-author books and representative chapters in collected essays. Unless otherwise indicated, all books and journals are written in Japanese and published in Tokyo.
a. Literary Theory
Bungaku Riron wo Hiraku (An Introduction to Literary Theory), ed. Itsuki Kitani (Hokuju Shuppan, 2014), written by five promising young scholars, is intended for students. The contributors share the sense of an impending crisis in the study of literature, and they work to broaden (hiraku) student interest by discussing literary theory [End Page 462] in a direct, accessible manner; their approach is not theory oriented but relies on numerous familiar examples from various genres.
Eiichi Iizuka’s Hyouden Maku Touein: Amerika Kenkoku to Sakka no Tanjo (Mark Twain, a Biography: Founding of the Nation and the Birth of the Writer) (Sairyusha, 2014) represents Iizuka’s third book on Mark Twain and the first in a planned three-volume biography. With a wealth of historical information, he informs us of Twain’s life and his background in a clear, very readable style.
c. 19th-Century Fiction and Poetry
Essays in this area of study are numerous and of high quality. In 2011 and commemorating the 70th anniversary of its initial publication appeared the first Japanese translation of F. O. Matthiessen’s The American Renaissance. Not a few conventions dealing with related topics took place in Japan, and studies of the authors figuring prominently in Matthiessen’s book outweigh those on other 19th-century writers at present. Kantaiseiyo no Sozoryoku: Ekkyosuru Amerikan Runessansu (The Circum-Atlantic Imagination: Transcrossing the American Renaissance), ed. Katsunori Takeuchi et al. (Sairyusha, 2013), for example, features the impressive results of a KAKEN (a Japanese government grant-in-aid program) initiative. An inspiring commentary by guest writer Paul Giles opens the book, which aims to reevaluate the American Renaissance from the vantage point of economy, transportation, and migration. Giles identifies this reevaluation as an opportunity to “turn the other way around,” so to speak, to examine that period of American literature and history not from the standpoint of “contact zone,” that is, from the inside, but rather from the perspective of the “parallax zone,” the zone of geographical remoteness that can illuminate geopolitical gaps. Giles’s essay is pivotal to the entire collection, and each of the following essays is a serious attempt to exhibit new approaches to the theme. The book consists of three parts, each featuring five essays. The part and chapter titles illustrate the diversity and depth of the issues addressed: Part 1, “Travel and Trade in the Atlantic World,” includes “Melville and the Transnational Body: Focusing on Moby-Dick; or, The Whale and Israel Potter” (Takuya Nishitani), “Transatlantic Appetite: The Representation of Food in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (Yasushi Takano), “Two Nations and Two ‘Wisdoms’: The Atlantic Economy of Emerson” (Katsunori Takeuchi), “The Republic Illusion: Margaret Fuller’s European...