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Panel 11 | 10:40-12:30 | ROOM C

Saturday, October 29, 2016
Panel 11 | 10:40-12:30 | ROOM C

11 - Book Arts

"The Art of Crafting the Image of Modern Japanese Literature: the Use of Visual Images in Promoting the Knopf’s Translation Program” Mai Kataoka, Sokendai, Nichibunken

  • When the English translation of Snow Country was published in 1956, its dust jacket with a geisha image was a surprise for Kawabata Yasunari – the illustration that the publisher chose for this work was far from the author’s taste. This edition of Snow Country was published as a part of the Alfred A. Knopf’s Translation Program of Modern Japanese Literature (1954 – 1976). The program introduced a number of modern Japanese novels to the U.S. and helped to establish the image of Japanese literature outside of Japan. In the early stage of this program, the editor-in-chief of Knopf and its program leader, Harold Strauss (1907 - 1975) wrote a promotional pamphlet entitled ‘On the Delights of Japanese Novels’ (1957). His choice of visual images and texts invited and strengthened associations with ‘exotic’ images of Japan with references such as French Impressionists’ discovery of Japanese paintings. Strauss’s initial intention was to bring Japanese novels out of ‘the category of exotic curiosities’ and his detailed descriptions of literary works in the pamphlet illustrate the actual look of Japanese novels. However, dissemination of such images resulted in an unexpected outcome from what Strauss intended– it reinforced the conventional image of Japan, as can be seen in the case of Kawabata receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature for being the embodiment of exoticism and Japanese sensibility.

      Through a focus on the visual images including the pamphlet, dust jackets, photos and illustrations employed in promoting this translation program, this paper will explore how the hybrid image of ‘Japanese novels’ was crafted to obtain wider readership. It also questions how far they were successful in revising the dominant image of Japan that prevailed prior to WWII. 

"The City of Embracing Defeat-- Images of Shanghai in Takeda Taijun’s Shanhai no hotaru (The Fireflies of Shanghai),” Yongfei Yi, The Ohio State University

  • In 1941, the Japanese Army entered Shanghai and took control of the International Settlement, which led to the settlement’s northern area being dominated by Japanese residents. The multicultural history of Shanghai and its complex political environment made it an ideal stage on which to display the power relationship between Japan and China. In 1944, Takeda Taijun took a position in the China-Japan Cultural Association and went to Shanghai, where he observed Japan’s defeat as he lived there until 1946. The novel The Fireflies of Shanghai was written based on his experiences during this time period, and in it he realistically depicts many important historical events that took place in Shanghai. This paper will discuss how Shanghai, a city of hybridity, was perceived by Takeda. His depiction of Shanghai shows how Takeda’s role as a cultural imperialist conflicts with his affection for China and Chinese culture, as well as his anxiety about Japan’s future.

    The style of this novel is similar to that of a journal.  Takeda depicts daily events and the narrator’s encounters with others in a relatively straightforward manner, while also giving readers an up-close-and-personal look at early 1940’s Shanghai through his descriptions of street views, films and performances in local theaters, cultural and literary events, and interactions between residents of diverse ethnicities. These details can be read as a record of Takeda’s reflections on Japan’s colonial policies and his ambivalent attitude towards the Sino-Japanese relationship. What is the position of writers in a nation’s political environment? This paper will analyze how Takeda raises this question and examine the issue of literature and politics in the scope of Shanghai.

Moderator/Discussant: Ann Sherif, Oberlin College