Women’s Voices in Modern Japan: Translation, Canonization, and Literary History

Visiting Scholar Talks

Apr 25, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

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


Hitomi Yoshio | Associate Professor, Waseda University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


Tomiko Yoda | Takashima Professor of Japanese Humanities, Harvard University

Seating is limited. Masks are required for all in-person audience members.

Co-sponsored with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies

This talk will focus on the period of the 1920s and 1930s in Japan, which saw a vast expansion of the publishing industry as the idea of literature was intensely debated, commercialized, and institutionalized, whether in the national sense of Japanese literature, or in the gendered sense of women’s literature. The first half of the talk will address the rise of the notion of “world literature” (sekai bungaku) in 1920s Japan, and the practices of translation, canonization, and the creation of literary history, particularly women’s literary history, within that global framework. In this context, I will discuss two figures, a Japanese feminist writer Ikuta Hanayo (1888-1970) and British modernist writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), and explore how their vision of an alternative women’s literary history become linked through a particular 10th century work that comes into light as the result of modern canonization and translation. In the second half, I will bring focus to the Japanese modernist writer Osaki Midori (1896-1971) and her work, discussing her creative (mis)translations, writings on film, unique character representation that emerged out of new studies in psychology, and envisioning of a utopian community of women. By examining these writers and texts, I hope to shed light on the centrality of gender in Japanese literary culture that emerged out of the vibrant print and translation culture of the 1920s and 30s.


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