William Bridges

picture of William  Bridges

Assistant Professor of Japanese, East Asian Studies
School of Humanities

Ph.D., Princeton University

Email: wbridges@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
468 Humanities Instructional Building
Mail Code: 6000
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Modern Japanese Literature, Cultural Studies, Race and Ethnic Studies
Research Abstract
My research is underpinned by a fairly straightforward question: what is the relationship between storytelling and identity, or: in what way is fiction an object of the humanities—one that tells us who we were, who we are, and who we might become? Walter Benjamin suggests that “traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel.” My research considers how we mold ourselves onto stories, and how close readings of the stories we tell reveal the mechanisms of identity formation.

I am interested in a broad definition of storytelling. My intellectual home is at the intersection of modern Japanese literature, African American literature, and comparative literature. But Japanese rappers certainly tell stories, as do works of anime. As such, my research interests span from the classics of modern Japanese and African American literature to works of Japanese popular culture.
I am particularly interested in studies of the “Black Pacific,” which consider the ebb and flow of black people, thought, and culture throughout the Pacific. My previous research—which includes an article on Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo’s writing of Afro-Japanese existentialism, an essay on the reception history of Little Black Sambo in Japan, an edited volume entitled Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and Afro-Japanese Cultural Exchange, and the forthcoming Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature—has investigated the place of fiction in the construction of racial and ethnic identities.

If Playing in the Shadows considers fictions of race, my next research project will consider visions of race (in photography, commercials, anime, et cetera). A representative publication here is “The Past Tense and the Future Perfect: The Postmodern Play of Watanabe Shin’ichiro and the Coming Community,” forthcoming in the Journal of Popular Culture.

I am always interested in good conversation; potential colleagues and students are welcome to contact me at the address above.
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