Modern literature, autobiographical fiction, cultural studies, film
After publishing a study of the fictionality of autobiographical narrative in early 20th-century Japan, I turned my attention to the politics of translation and argued that the presence of an English-language "canon" of Japanese fiction has skewed the West's perception of the literature. My general critique notwithstanding, I remain vitally committed to the practice of translation. My most recent contributions include two stories by Tamura Toshiko for an anthology of women's literature from the Meiji period (1868-1912).
I maintain an abiding interest in the ethnic, social, and cultural diversity that is commonly written out of accounts of postwar Japan. Research in this area has resulted in (1) an article on minorities that complicates the image of Japan as a homogeneous state; (2) a book-length study -- part ethnography, part oral history, part personal account -- of San'ya, Tokyo's largest day-laborer quarter; and (3) a translation of a prize-winning memoir by a day laborer long based in San'ya. It has also yielded an essay on modern literary representations of the descendants of outcastes in Japan commonly known today as burakumin, setting several key 20th-century fictional works in the historical context of more than half a millennium of discrimination.
Another interest is the representation of urban space, especially of Tokyo and Osaka, in literature, cinema, and photographs. One manifestation of that interest is my essay on Ozu Yasujiro's first postwar film, A WHO'S WHO OF THE TENEMENT ('Nagaya shinshi-roku'), and its contestatory depiction of Japan during the Occupation. Another manifestation is my participation in a collaborative project, spearheaded by my colleague, James Fujii, to translate several key essays by the late critic and literary theorist Maeda Ai, primarily from his celebrated book on city space in Japanese literature (Toshi kukan no naka no bungaku, translated as TEXT AND THE CITY; ESSAYS ON JAPANESE MODERNITY).
Currently I am writing a memoir of my late wife, a Japanese national, that focuses on the differing, sometimes conflicting expectations of two cultures (American and Japanese) about illness, treatment, mourning, and memorializing.
"Making Up Race: Notes on Buraku Literature in Japan." In PMLA (123:5), Oct. 2008, pp. 1703-1706
"Lifeblood" and "The Vow," by Tamura Toshiko. In THE MODERN MURASAKI: WRITING BY WOMEN OF MEIJI JAPAN, ed. Rebecca L. Copeland & Melek Ortabasi (Columbia University Press, 2006).
A MAN WITH NO TALENTS. A translation of SANYA GAKEPPUCHI NIKKI, by Oyama Shiro (Cornell University Press, 2005).
Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature (2006)
Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize Finalist (2006)
American Booksellers Association Book Sense Notables (September, 2005)
Translations of essays by Maeda Ai on the fiction of Higuchi Ichiyo ('Takekurabe') and Kawabata Yasunari ('Asakusa kurenaidan'), in Maeda Ai, TEXT AND THE CITY: ESSAYS ON JAPANESE MODERNITY, ed. James A. Fujii (Duke University Press, 2004).
"Piss and Run: Or How Ozu Does a Number on SCAP," in WORD AND IMAGE IN JAPANESE CINEMA, ed. Dennis Washburn and Carole Cavanaugh (Cambridge University Press, 2001).
"The Buraku in Modern Japanese Literature: Texts and Contexts." THE JOURNAL OF JAPANESE STUDIES, Vol. 26 (Winter, 2000).
SAN'YA BLUES: LABORING LIFE IN CONTEMPORARY TOKYO (Cornell University Press, 1996; paperback edition 1998; Japanese translation 1998; paperback edition 2002).
Finalist: John K. Fairbank Prize (1997)
Nominee: John Whitney Hall Prize
Japanese translation cited as one of the “Best Three Books of 1998” by reviewers for the Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers
"Minorites in a 'Homogenous' State: The Case of Japan." In Arif Dirlik, ed., WHAT IS IN A RIM? CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE PACIFIC REGION IDEA, (Westview Press, 1993).
"Rendering Words, Traversing Cultures: On the Art and Politics of Translating Japanese Literature." THE JOURNAL OF JAPANESE STUDIES, Vol. 17 (Winter, 1991).
THE RHETORIC OF CONFESSION: SHISHOSETSU IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY JAPANESE FICTION (University of California Press, 1988; paperback edition, 1992).
Hiromi Arisawa Memorial Award (1990)
Philip E. Lilienthal Prize (1989)
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 2008-09
Fulbright Scholar Program, 1989-90
Japan Foundation, 1978-79; 1988-89; 2002
National Endowment for the Humanities, 1984-85