Research Institute for Letters, Arts and SciencesWaseda University


【TGU Global Japanese Studies】An International Workshop “RETHINKING JAPANESE LITERARY HISTORY Periodization, Genre, and Media”@Columbia Univ. -Report-

Periodization, Genre, and Media

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An International Workshop Organized by Columbia University and Waseda University
Friday, March 11, 2016
9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University, New York City

Haruo Shirane (Columbia University), Tomi Suzuki (Columbia University), Hirokazu Toeda (Waseda University)

Ryusaku Tsunoda Center of Japanese Culture, Waseda University
Global Japanese Studies model unit, Waseda University Top Global University Project, supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology – Japan
Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, Columbia University
Department of East Asian Languages and Culture, Columbia University

Speakers Include:
Mihoko Suzuki, University of Miami (Keynote)
Torquil Duthie, University of California, Los Angeles
Yuika Kitamura, Kobe University
Kazuaki Komine, Rikkyo University Emeritus; Waseda University Guest Senior Researcher
Sungsi Lee, Waseda University
Seiji M. Lippit, University of California, Los Angeles
David Lurie, Columbia University
Hiroaki Nagashima, University of Tokyo
Wei Shang, Columbia University
Haruo Shirane, Columbia University
Tomi Suzuki, Columbia University
Hirokazu Toeda, Waseda University
Christina Yi, University of British Columbia

Founded in 1754, Columbia University is one of the world’s top research universities, and has produced 101 Nobel Prize laureates to date. With its core curriculum courses for undergraduates, the university is also known for having a particularly strong emphasis on liberal arts education among the Ivy League institutions. Liberal arts courses for students in their early years include studies of history, culture, and literature, concerning not only the West but also Asia, thanks to the efforts made by former students of the late Ryusaku Tsunoda, such as Professors Emeriti Theodore de Bary and Donald Keene, who led the field of Japanese Studies in the United States in Tsunoda’s footsteps. Presently, those efforts are being continued by Professors Haruo Shirane and Tomi Suzuki, who have contributed to the development of the Global Japanese Studies model unit of Waseda University Top Global University Project, as well as to the training of young researchers and the development of platforms for active global scholarly exchange.
The workshop “RETHINKNG JAPANESE LITERARY HISTORY- Periodization, Genre, and Media” was held on March 11, 2016 at Columbia University as a part of the Global Japanese Studies initiative, led by three core institutions: Waseda University, Columbia University, and UCLA. Over twenty scholars from more than ten universities attended the workshop as presenters, commentators, and participants.
The objective of the workshop was to rethink the notions of “Japanese,” “literary,” and “history” in a broader global context, questioning established categories (such as periodization, genre, media, nation, and the institution of literary history itself), in an attempt to explore new vectors of research and pedagogy.

Issues in Periodization in Early Modern European Studies
Mihoko Suzuki, Professor of English Literature and Director of the Center for the Humanities, University of Miami
Moderated by Tomi Suzuki, Columbia University
Respondents: Wei Shang, Columbia University,
Haruo Shirane, Columbia University

Mihoko Suzuki’s keynote centered on how scholars of Renaissance/Early Modern history and literature have dealt with issues regarding periodization. The presentation began by historicizing the creation of the “Renaissance” as a period. It then examined recent works on periodization by scholars such as Jacques Le Goffe, Ted Underwood, and Kathleen Davis that have problematized the construction of historical and literary periods. She also noted the particular problems associated with periodization in Asia, raised by theorists like Bitō Masahide and Dipesh Chakrabarty. She went on to note that existing theories have largely hinged on an idea of discontinuity between periods, critiquing those theories using both examples from Japanese literary history and her own research of seventeenth-century English literature. For example, she noted several female writers like Lucy Hutchinson, who were active across the 1660 boundary between the traditionally-conceived “Renaissance” and the Restoration period following the return of Charles II.
Wei Shang noted in his response that periodization is a particularly modern problem, and that some concept of periodicity in literary works existed in China even in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, prior to the extended contact with the West. Because of this, in China, the term “early modern” does not only mean “preceding the modern,” but also describes movements taking place within the Ming and Qing periods. He also discussed the competing theories for where to draw the line with regards to Chinese early modernity, as well as their shortcomings, and how each theory reflects a different approach to and paradigm for historical study. His comments suggested that commonalities could be drawn between Western and non-Western cases, though he noted the need for caution in these comparisons.
This led to a larger discussion among all the workshop participants related to the source and meaning of differences between Japan and the West in treating literary history. In particular, the question of how literary history should or should not be connected to political history was addressed in numerous comments.

Antiquity within East Asian Period Divisions: “Chūko” in Japanese Literary History
Sungsi Lee, Waseda University
Moderated by David Lurie, Columbia University
Respondent: Torquil Duthie, University of California, Los Angeles

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In Session Two, Sungsi Lee addressed the ubiquity of the “chūko” period in Japanese literary history, which falls between the ancient and medieval periods and does not have a clear equivalent in the literary histories of other East Asian states. Further, he noted that within Japanese history, current trends attempt to locate and position Japan with East Asia as a whole, rather than treat it in isolation. To that end, he discussed how the idea of “chūko” could interface with histories of Tang, Palhae, and Silla.
In his response, Torquil Duthie followed up on these issues, first by asking what would be the subject of a trans-Asian literary history, as opposed to a national history. Secondly, he questioned the necessity of the ancient period as a period division in Japan and Korea, especially given the lack of such periodization in European countries, such as Britain, Germany, and Spain, whose histories start in the medieval period.
Kazuaki Komine noted a renewed importance in reflecting on the term “chūko,” as it is no longer popularly used in Japanese literary circles, except for in names of conferences and research groups. Tomi Suzuki reinforced the need to rethink the idea of chūko itself as a problematic term that only has currency in Japan, but also to rethink the period that would correspond with chūko across East Asia. Komine and Suzuki also reflected on the kokugaku roots of the jōko/chūko/kinko method of period division and its falling out of practice. Lee noted that this style might more closely correspond to thinking in premodern East Asia as opposed to the kodai/chūsei that modern Japan invoked in comparing itself to Europe. Hiroaki Nagashima added that the original usage of divisional terminology in Edo and early Meiji was ambiguous from the beginning. Haruo Shirane and Torquil Duthie further clarified the idea of removing the ancient period from a trans-Asian literary history, as literature is based in letters, meaning an ancient period would have only existed in China.

Genre Hierarchy and Textual Stability in Early Modern Japanese Fiction
Hiroaki Nagashima, University of Tokyo
Moderator and Respondent: Haruo Shirane, Columbia University

In Session Three, Hiroaki Nagashima introduced several characteristics used to describe Edo-period literature with the larger aim of finding hints on how to think about Japanese literary history more broadly. The first part of his talk introduced the relationship between social hierarchy and a hierarchy of books, with the caveat that in this period genres were ill-defined and the genre hierarchy had considerable flexibility. This hierarchy of books was determined by factors such as book manufacture, writing style, publishing site, strata of readers, etc. The second part discussed the applicability of the general principle that textual content was more stable in print-dominated Edo than in earlier periods dominated by handwritten manuscripts. Nagashima noted that this observation applies primarily to fiction. Conversely, in the manuscript-based genre of jitsuroku, which reported factual events, there was a wide degree of textual fluidity as individual copyists altered and embellished the particulars of a given historical incident.
Haruo Shirane’s responses began by questioning if and how the relationship between a social hierarchy and types of books applies to periods before Edo. This stimulated a discussion on the relationship of the aristocracy to literary production, and the proliferation of genres in the early modern period. Shirane further questioned how to reconcile the stability of fictional texts with the proliferation of medieval variants, such as Sumiyoshi monogatari and others. This led to a conversation about ownership, textual scattering and loss, and established authorship and how they relate to textual fluidity or stability.
Nan Ma Hartmann asked about the conditions under which factual events could be fodder for jitsuroku accounts, which led to a discussion of the idea of a “shared facts” among readers in the Edo period. Tomi Suzuki further problematized the issue by showing that the ownership/authorship and fact/fiction categorizations do not always cleanly overlap with textual movement, and also raised the issue of genres like setsuwa, which lie between fact and fiction. Finally, the discussion turned toward comparisons with publication conditions in England and consideration of the cultural conditions of the Meiji period.

Rethinking the History of Literature: On Linking Classical and Modern
Kazuaki Komine, Rikkyō University Emeritus, Waseda University Senior Guest Researcher
Moderator and Respondent: Haruo Shirane, Columbia University

Kazuaki Komine began Session Four by discussing methodologies for outlining the history of Japanese literature. He noted two primary approaches, one based on genres moving period-by-period through Japanese history, and another that focuses on particular issues or themes in an effort to deconstruct the literary histories based on the first type of approach. In Komine’s view, the largest issue in these projects is how to connect the premodern and modern, and one method to achieve this is through medieval commentary, which shifts the focus of literary study from production and authorship to reception. His presentation used Kamo no Chōmei’s An Account of My Hut as a concrete example to illustrate changes in how texts were read and consumed between the premodern and modern periods. He ended his talk by suggesting further potential for thinking about literary history across East Asia. Specifically, Komine noted that Account is generally read as a zuihitsu, but that it more properly belongs in the genre of Buddhist literature, and that this reseating of the text occurred in the modern era.
Addressing Komine’s reexamination of Chōmei, Haruo Shirane asked how the two methods suggested for bridging premodern and modern ─ rethinking the work in multiple periods with cognizance of how modernity has shaped textual reception, and reexamining the medieval readings that show how the work existed in the past ─ would potentially intersect. Tomi Suzuki raised the issue of specific parts of Account of My Hut being used (rather than reading the text as a whole) and the importance of that context. These comments led to a renewed discussion of the relationship between readership and reader theory in connection to historical reception, and the need to encourage a type of literacy that can understand the plurality of literary histories. Torquil Duthie questioned whether it was desirable to replace treating the reception of text period-by-period in favor of century-by-century, given that speaking of the modern reading of the text refers to a particular historical turning point.

– Literary History at the End of Literature
Seiji M. Lippit, University of California, Los Angeles
– The Intersections of “Japanese Literature” and “Japanese-Language Literature”
Christina Yi, The University of British Columbia

Moderated by Yuika Kitamura, Kobe University
Respondents: Hirokazu Toeda, Waseda University
Tomi Suzuki, Columbia University

Session Five began with Seiji Lippit, who juxtaposed the two perspectives of Kōjin Karatani (柄谷行人) and Minae Mizumura (水村美苗) on the end of literature. These perspectives suggest a trajectory of discontinuity in considering literary history as something that once existed but does so no longer. As a counterpoint, he introduced Derrida’s contemplation that literature never really existed in the first place, or that in its formulation already incorporated a self-criticism of its own conditions of being. In this sense the death of literature forms a continuity as it was never alive to begin with. Considering that literary history is always written in the present, literary history written in the age of literature’s demise is then operating between these two poles of continuity and discontinuity.
Christina Yi opened with a discussion of the judges’ comments on Kaisei Ri (Hoesung Lee, 李恢成), known as the first ethnic Korean to win the Akutagawa literary prize, as well as Ri’s own reaction to their categorization of him. She used this to illustrate first that understanding the connection between ethnicity and literary history cannot be delinked from imperial history, and further, that the variety of categorizations possible for Kaisei Ri is a direct result of the rewriting of the memory of Japanese imperialism in the postwar period. Ri is then a “palimpsest of these memories,” and reflects the complications, intersections, and confrontations that come together in a single author’s life. She closed her presentation by emphasizing the signifying forces of the labels applied, and how to conceive of them given the larger issues of the workshop.
Tomi Suzuki reemphasized that the writing of literary history happens in the present, and asked what the current position of zainichi authors could be, especially given the arguments by Karatani and Mizumura that posit above all the end of the historicity of literature as it has been. This comment led to a discussion of what, if any, possibilities exist for literary history beyond national literature. Hirokazu Toeda noted that language was a fundamental issue in both presentations, and further, that the issue might not be solely the end of Japanese literature, but rather its beginning and development. He also noted that the present linguistic issues in formulating Japanese language literature have not been considered in relation to a continuity with the premodern period.
Sungsi Lee noted the major prize-winning zainichi authors in Japan could not write in Korean, and that the issue of whether or not the works by these authors should be considered Japanese literature was somewhat nonsensical. He then added that such authors symbolize a non-nationalized literature, as Japanese-born, Japanese-speaking writers who could not be part of the nation-state. This dovetailed with the observation that the system for writing histories of literature dates from the nineteenth century and is an expression of the modern nation-state. Participants discussed the possibility of treating the works by zainichi authors as Japanese-language literature, rather than Japanese literature. Mihoko Suzuki discussed a similar issue in contemporary German literature surrounding works by guest workers, literature in English by African writers, and even Sōseki, in terms of how to conceive of global literature and encounters with other languages. Haruo Shirane raised the similar question of works by authors like Kazuo Ishiguro, which are not unrelated to Japanese literature but not immediately connected to it either. Nan Ma Hartmann suggested thinking how to place literature not based on the nationality of its author, but on the position and identities of its readers.
The discussion closed with a renewed call for attention to the problems of language and idea of national language both in the deconstruction of and any subsequent attempt to create a new literary history, and suggested codifying the notion of literary works under the category of Japanese Literary Culture.

Closing Remarks

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Haruo Shirane closed the workshop with an anecdote about his own experiences as an exchange student in Japan, reinforcing the issues of nation, language, and identity in categorizing literature as discussed in the final session. This dovetailed with a larger point about the topics of the symposium as a whole: the need to think outside the boundaries of Japan, whether through comparison and discussion with scholars of literary history in other regions or by appraising Japan’s connections with and within East Asia as a whole; the need to problematize how literary scholars deal with genre and textual hierarchy; the search for a convincing and productive way to bridge premodern and modern literature; and finally, how to reconcile the project of literary history in an era where national literature and national language continue to be deconstructed, and where literature itself has been argued to have come to an end.

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