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Event report -Textual Heritage: Uses and Re-creations Ownership, Authorship, Authenticity in Premodern Japanese Literature

Textual Heritage: Uses and Re-creations
Ownership, Authorship, Authenticity in Premodern Japanese Literature
Event Report


This workshop was conceived of and organized primarily by Edoardo Gerlini of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Gerlini has been a visiting research fellow at Waseda University’s Faculty of Arts, Letters and Sciences for the past two years, starting in June 2018. He was selected by the European Union’s Marie Curie Fellowship program to investigate the research theme of “World Heritage and East Asian Literature – Sinitic Writings in Japan as Literary Heritage” and has been pursuing studies into Japanese literature, classical Chinese literature, and world literature as cultural heritage. This event’s program was devised to provide an overview of Gerlini’s two years’ of study in Japan through workshop-based discussions with researchers from Japan and elsewhere concerning the research questions of which Gerlini had become aware and the ideas that had come to him over the course of his studies so far.
The workshop was originally planned to take place at Waseda University on April 11, 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a postponement of the event. Nevertheless, thought was put into devising an alternate way of holding the event, which ended up coming to fruition in the form of an online workshop via Zoom. There was a considerable reduction to the amount of time available for presentations and discussions because the total time allotted for the proceedings was shortened from what had been originally been planned. However, moving the workshop online also ended up permitting 227 people—from high school students to members of the general public, as well as from throughout Japan and around the world—to participate.
Prior to this online workshop, the Global Japanese Studies Model Unit has been engaged in investigating issues relating to “the author”: Research was initiated in July 2015 as the collective brainchild of Haruo Shirane and Tomi Suzuki of Columbia University, plus Kazuaki Komine (Researcher at Ryusaku Tsunoda Center of Japanese Culure, Waseda Univ.) and the leader of the Global Japanese Studies Model Unit, Hirokazu Toeda. Since then, research seminars have taken place twice annually, and Waseda University’s Global Japanese Studies Model Unit and Columbia University have co-hosted international symposia—at Waseda University in July 2016 and at Columbia University in March 2017, March 2018, and February 2020. A collection of writings on the findings from these events is scheduled to be published as “Sakusha” to wa Nani ka: Keishō, Senyū, Kyōdōsei [What Is the Author?: Inheritance, Ownership, and Commonality] is set to be published during 2020 by Iwanami Shoten.
The stated goals of this workshop were to create a more profound understanding of heritage studies and to discuss the concept of “textual heritage” through the lens of the ideas of Gerlini, who is attempting a reconsideration of the study of Japanese classical literature from the standpoint of heritage. In addition to presenting a lecture titled “What if We Took Japanese Literature as World Heritage? Classics, Memory, and Identity as a Link from the Present Back to the Past” in April 2019, Gerlini has repeatedly given talks at academic conferences and other venues in Japan and other countries. As a result of the groundwork he has laid through these research endeavors, Gerlini was able to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the workshop to shed light on and to consider various aspects of the use and re-creation of texts, specifically, in relation to Japanese classical literature from three angles: ownership, authorship, and authenticity.

An overview and the program of the workshop is provided below.

What meanings does the term “textual heritage” hold? Do all texts from the past become heritage? Or is it that only those texts that have been especially well regarded and adhered to are to be called heritage? And is classical literature, in itself, worthy of being called cultural heritage? Today, when there are warnings of a crisis in the classics, is it possible to open up new possibilities for uncovering the value of the classics in modern society by recontextualizing classical literature as cultural heritage—that is, by redefining it as “textual heritage”? The intention of this workshop is to attempt to answer the question of how the authors and readers of Japanese classical literature have evaluated and acted to preserve past texts through discussion of various aspects of the use and re-creation of texts that took place in premodern Japan. The history of Japanese literature will be considered from the bases of the three key, intersecting ideas of ownership, authorship, and authenticity while comparing the two concepts of heritage and the classics—without being bound by typical historical divisions such as antiquity, the middle ages, and modern times. Case studies to be presented will concern the issues of to whom texts belong, by whom they are created and preserved—or overwritten and destroyed—and how the distinction between originals and copies was perceived; scholars will discuss Japanese classical literature in relation to the meaning and current and potential states of the cultural activities of the use and re-creation of texts.

They day of the workshop began with keynote presentations by Gerlini and Masayuki Maeda (Meisei University) on the subject of “Are the classics heritage?” Next, there was a series of three sessions on the themes of ownership, authorship, and authenticity in which trios of presenters talked for five minutes each, followed by comments from the presenters from the other sessions and from the sessions’ moderators, leading into question and answer sessions. The final portion of the workshop consisted of a general discussion. Before moving on to the discussion proper, the presenters and moderators first read aloud the “definition of textual heritage” that each had submitted beforehand, and Shigemi Inaga (International Research Center for Japanese Studies) then provided commentary summarizing the proceedings up to that point. On the day of the workshop, commentary supplementing that of the speakers was provided by Haruo Shirane, Yasuro Abe (Professor Emeritus, Nagoya University), Masao Nishimura (Professor Emeritus, Waseda University), and Tzvetana Kristeva (International Christian University), presenting a variety of perspectives and noting points for future research. In part because of the restricted time available, there were aspects left at the end of the event that warranted further discussion. Nevertheless, it was clear that the workshop would lead to new possibilities for various future avenues of consideration and research.

Program: Please click here  (in Japanese only)

This workshop was sponsored by the Waseda University Global Japanese Studies Model Unit of the Top Global University Project (SGU), the Waseda University Research Institute for Letters, Arts and Sciences, and the Ryusaku Tsunoda Center of Japanese Culture. It was co-sponsored by Waseda University Research Institute of Japanese Classical Books. Support was provided by the European Commission’s EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme “Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions” (no. 792809 WHEREAL).

(Kimiko Kono, Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences)

■Please click here for a video of the event

■Please answer to the questionnaire after watching the above video (in Japanese only)


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