Graduate School of Letters, Arts and SciencesWaseda University

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Global-J and My Student Life: Rihito Mitsui

Reasons for applying for Global-J at Waseda University

I applied for a doctoral program in Global Japanese Literary and Cultural Studies (Global-J) because I wanted to study Japanese literature from the perspective of translation studies in a global context. I am interested in exploring the ways in which Japanese literature has been translated into English and how translations of Japanese literature have been received both within and outside of Japan. In my own research, I examine translations of Japanese literature from the perspective of world literature and translation studies, with a focus on translation as an act of rewriting, seeing translators as authors in their own right. A closer consideration of the history of translations of Japanese literature reveals the important fact that these translations can be received as genuine works of English literature, not merely as secondary translations, and that literary translation, far from being mere imitation, is a creative and social activity.

I believe that Global-J is a perfect fit for my own studies. It is a unique program, in which there are leading scholars who focus on Japanese literature in an international context from a wide range of interests, including the concept of world literature and translation theories. The program offers many opportunities to approach Japanese literature from the perspective of both traditional Japanese literary studies within Japan and Japanese literary studies from outside Japan.

A friendly atmosphere in Global-J and communication with faculty and graduate students

Global-J is a new program that started in 2018, and one which has a very welcoming and pleasant atmosphere. The faculty in the program are very friendly and give excellent advice. It is wonderful to work with them. The program offers research guidance and coursework in both Japanese and English. The professors are enormously helpful and kindly give useful advice according to students’ knowledge and interest. Moreover, in our English-language coursework, an intensive seminar attended by international students at Waseda and other universities was held, which dealt with issues from the history of Japanese literature to theater and performance in Japanese literature to world literature, which gave us a chance to communicate with Ph.D. students from various countries. Thus, the program offers a variety of approaches and methodologies to Japanese literature in terms of Japanese literary studies both in Japan and outside of Japan.

Furthermore, Global-J offers terrific opportunities to interact with scholars at various universities in the United States. For example, I had wonderful experiences of researching at UCLA and communicating with scholars and graduate students there. In addition, I took part in a roundtable discussion by graduate students to give a presentation on my current research at Columbia University. Presenting my work in front of the expert audience there and receiving their insightful comments were invaluable, which further inspired my research.

Through my interactions with scholars and international students, I learned the significance of understanding the differences between Japanese literary studies in Japan and that conducted in other countries. In the United States, for instance, I feel that Japanese literature tends to be studied as part of Japanese studies, and perhaps, part of comparative literary studies. Japanese literary studies generally belong to the department of Asian languages and cultures in academic institutions in the United States, which shows that they differ from Japanese literary studies within Japan.

In communication with international graduate students, I found their interest in Japan both specialized and extensive. I suppose that their wide interests might be attributed to their research on Japanese literature as part of a broader program of area studies about Japan. Exchanging views with them opened up my horizons. Their excellent Japanese language skills were also highly impressive, which stimulated me to learn languages more diligently. Global-J strengthens the motivation for my research and learning languages from various angles.

My passion for study

These invaluable experiences, such as the research guidance and the coursework at Waseda, researching at UCLA, and attending the workshop at Columbia, gave me a broader perspective for my studies. The realization of the importance of considering the difference between Japanese literary studies in Japan and that in the United States was particularly significant. It has encouraged me to reconsider how to develop and position my studies and why I would like to write my dissertation in English while researching in Japan. I got interested in studying how the discipline of Japanese literary studies has developed in Japan as well as outside Japan, and studying the differences between the meaning of writing about Japanese literature in Japanese and that of writing about it in English. Learning in Global-J leads to considering what Global Japanese literary studies is or, more generally, what the term “global” means. An interesting feature of Global-J, I think, is that the program offers wonderful opportunities to examine these issues through Japanese literature.

My long-term objective is to grasp Japanese literature in terms of translation studies and world literature, and to understand the history of its translation, which developed uniquely as an academic discipline. I really enjoy studying at Global-J, and I am honored to be a member of the program. Global-J has just this year (2021) launched a new master’s program, so it will have more students, and interaction among students will make the course even more attractive. I am very much looking forward to talking to new students from around the world.

Profile

Rihito Mitsui is a doctoral student in Global Japanese Literary and Cultural Studies at Waseda University. His current research interest is English translations of modern Japanese literature, especially Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s works. He received a BA in Global Political Economy from Waseda University and an MA in Theory and Practice of Translation from SOAS University of London. He entered the doctor’s program in Global-J and has worked as a Research Fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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