Hey, Dad, what is modernism to you after all?

Visiting Scholar Talks

Dec 9, 2022 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Tsuyoshi Namigata | Professor of Modern Japanese Literature, Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


Karen Thornber | Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Co-sponsored by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and the Asia Center

In-person talk – Seating is limited. Masks are required for all audience members.

A few years ago, my son asked me, “Hey, Dad, what is modernism?” Then, I began to answer his question by summarizing the definition and history of modernism. But he didn’t seem so happy, and I felt something wrong. I know that was because he unconsciously asked me a more fundamental question, not just a short lecture. Maybe he wanted to say, “Hey, Dad, what is modernism to you after all?”

In this talk, I try to answer his other question in terms of modern Japanese literature and comparative literature. We can define modernism as the innovative trends of literature and art from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, especially between the 1920s and 1930s. However, new modernist studies have recently expanded the time axis from before the 19th century until now. In addition, the target area has grown from the conventional center of Europe and the United States to the entire world in Africa, Latin America, South Asia, etc. In the context of this “global modernism,” an urgent question facing me concerns just how I position my research on “Japanese modernism” and “East Asian modernism.” I have to catch up with these trends and answer my urgent question, but it may be the same thing to think about my question and my son’s. This time will be the dialogue between research life and daily life.

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