- Remarks Given at the Annual Melville Society Dinner at MLA 2017
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First, I would like to express sincere thanks to the good friends of the Melville Society of America for electing me as the President of such a prestigious society. Since I became a member of the Society, I have noticed great Melvilleans as the presidents. [End Page 109]
So it is the greatest honor for me to stand with them. As an international president, I will do my best to promote transnational studies, like that of the transpacific resonances between Melville and John Manjiro, a Japanese "Ishmael" who was rescued in 1841 by an American whaling ship, studied English and navigation in Massachusetts, and later participated in the Tokugawa Shogunate's negotiations with Commodore Perry in 1853 as a translator and interpreter. And I will work for the Melvilleans of the world, including, of course, the Japanese Melvilleans.
One of the members of the Melville Society of Japan said that the presidential election in America was very unpredictable! This observation would be true for both the President of the Melville Society of America and of the United States of America in 2017. In Japan, my colleagues are very much surprised at the news that I have been elected as President of the Society. But fortunately most of the members of the Melville Society of Japan welcome this development, as it is very encouraging for themselves. As a matter of fact, one of the most active Japanese academic organizations interested in international conferences is the Melville Society of Japan, as shown by the large number of participants in the Tokyo conference in 2015.
Most of the participants of the Tokyo conference must remember that the logo-mark of the conference was designed as an overlapping picture of Godzilla and Moby Dick. Generally speaking, most Japanese are subconsciously obsessed with nuclear weapons, symbolized in the shape of the nuclear monster. Representing this idea, Kenzaburō Ōe, a Nobel Prize winner for literature, frequently warns of the danger of nuclear weapons accumulated in America as well as all over the world. He compares their fatal power to the inscrutable power of the white whale.
Furthermore, the novelist Natsuki Ikezawa, an Akutagawa Prize winner and a keynote lecturer at the Tokyo conference, also warned of the crisis of mass destruction by nuclear accident even before the Fukushima power plant disaster. If we regard the white whale as an agent of the malicious God, it is not surprising, especially to Japanese, that the white whale and Godzilla—in anagram, Ill-Gods—are closely overlapped. Both are warning symbols to the world. From Melville's works, including Moby-Dick, therefore, we could draw an eschatological symbolism.
However, we do not have to foresee a pessimistic view of the future. As Melvilleans, we can bravely face the critical situations of mankind and conquer the danger of the world through international friendship. So, let us get together again at the 2017 conference in London, the very place—somewhere over the rainbow—with the Melvillean hopes.
Arigatou gozaimasu—Thank you very much. [End Page 110]