Session I: Early Examples

First presentation:

Christian Ratcliff is Associate Professor in the Department of Cross-Cultural Studies at Kanagawa University. He received his PhD in pre-modern Japanese language and literature from Yale University. His primary research interest is the role that cultural arts played in medieval Japanese societies, a topic he has pursued in studies of such things as poetry, kemari (a classical Japanese ball sport), literary treatises, and manuscript copying. Publications include: “1960-nendai nihon no josei undōka no jitujō to imēji” [Female Activists in 1960s Japan: Media Depictions vs. Actual Conditions] (in 68-nen no sei: henyō suru shakai to “watashi” no shintai; Seikyūsha); “The Thematic Structure of Eiga monogatari: Secular Success, Buddhist Concerns and the Function of the Fifteenth Chapter, Utagai” (Jinbun kenkyū [Studies in Humanities] 183); “Telling Secrets: Mumyōzōshi, Abutsu, and the Transmission of Literary Expertise by Women” (Jinbun kenkyū 169); “Willful Copyists and the Transmission of Suspect Narratives of Literary Production” (in Reading Material: The Production of Narratives, Genres, and Literary Identities, PAJLS 7) and “Bunka-teki shikōsha de aru kajin Asukai Masaari” [Asukai Masaari as a Poet in Cultural Service] (in Ferris University, ed., Waka no bunkagaku).

Gods in the Trees: Kemari Makes the Jump from Game to Art in 12th Century Japan

  At the midpoint of the 12th century, the ball-kicking game kemari was thought of as an interesting amusement, fun to watch, but not something the members of Japan’s court society took very seriously. Participation was generally limited to young men of low or middle rank within aristocratic society, as the sweating and general dishevelment that resulted from running about on the court was thought to be too unseemly and indecorous for those who had achieved either high position or mature years. When a number of very high-ranking persons – Emperors, Former Emperors, Regents and the like – began to take a strong interest in the sport, however, its image was rapidly altered, as was its value within the Court’s social economy.

  In what can only be viewed as a causally-related development, it was at precisely this time that texts began to appear that served to locate meaning in the game, and to provide for it all of the elements necessary for the creation of a mythology: tales of legendary players performing miraculous feats, descriptions of previously unknown patron gods, revelations concerning the quasi-magical benefits of play. It is not hard to get the sense, reading these texts, that one is witnessing a group of authors actively following a kind of recipe: “how to change a pastime into an art.” The fact that most of those involved in burnishing kemari’s image were also dedicated poets, and that Japanese poetry itself had achieved a suspiciously similar uplift some centuries past, only strengthens this impression of concerted, self-aware effort.


Second presentation:

Riley Soles graduated in 2005 from Harvard University, where he majored in English Literature and Comparative Religion, writing his senior thesis on the relationship between Zen Buddhism and environmentalism in the poetry of the American beat poet Gary Snyder. After graduating, he made his first trip to Japan and lived in a Zen monastery called Tofuku-ji in Kyoto. This experience led him to return to Harvard, where he pursued both a Masters of Theological Studies and a Masters in East Asian Studies. Soles left Harvard to join the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale to study Japanese waka poetry. He is currently writing a dissertation that compares the Western Sublime to Japanese yūgen, the quality of mystery and depth found in premodern Japanese poetry. This year he has been conducting research at Tsurumi University with the support of a Fulbright grant.

The Rise of the Kami: Beyond a Shinto-Buddhist Syncretism in Premodern Japan

 This talk will aim to give an overview of the political, literary, theological, and institutional developments in premodern Japan that elevated the localized worship of ancestral deities known as kami to what we now call Shinto, or the Way of the Gods. A crucial stage in this development was the advent of Buddhism, which sought not to reject and suppress native rites and beliefs but rather bring them into the fold of its highly elite institutional apparatus. 

   Keeping in mind that the word “Shinto” is itself a modern term retroactively applied to an array of religious phenomena involving kami worship, I will show that for an extended period of Japanese history such kami-related religious activities, including the production of iconography, the performance of ritual, and the management of shrines, were almost completely absorbed into a Buddhist worldview and expansive institutional system. While the Buddhist doctrine of “expedient means” provided the theological justification for such assimilation, developments within the Buddhist world itself made the inclusion of kami into the Buddhist pantheon a political and economic imperative for powerful, large-scale Buddhist institutions. This process gave rise to the notion that Japan was the special “land of the gods,” an idea whose shadows have lingered, problematically, in nationalist discourse even until today. 


Third presentation:

James Tink is Associate Professor of English Literature in the Department of English Literature, Tohoku University, Sendai. He received a PhD in English Literature from The University of Sussex, and has taught at universities in London and Tokyo. His main research interests are early modern English literature and modern literary theory. Recent publications include: “The Pieties of the Death Sentence in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go,” Parallax 22.1 (2016); “Staging Timon of Athens in the Downturn," Shakespeare Review 50.5 (2014); "Teaching the History Plays in Japan," Teaching Shakespeare 6 (2014), and “Active and Contemplative Labour in The Tempest” in Prismatic Shakespeare From the Renaissance to the Twenty-First Century, ed. Kumiko Hoshi et.al. (Tokyo: Kinseido, 2013). He is currently co-editing an essay collection, Seeing Animals: Jacques Derrida, Visuality, and the Exposure of the Human, for publication in 2017.

Shakespeare, Art and Show Business

2016 is of course the tercentenary of William Shakespeare’s death, and his life and achievements are being celebrated at events throughout the year. There could really be no surer figure of the literary artist, and of dramatic art, in the canon of English literature. And yet, the historical reception of Shakespeare in literary criticism since the eighteenth century has often had an ambivalent approach to his origins in the popular theatre and entertainment of sixteenth and seventeenth century London. In order to make Shakespeare a form of art acceptable to modern literary standards, those aspects of the work that are considered unfortunate or embarrassing traces of early-modern entertainment (be they crude, humorous or violent) have been often excluded, rewritten, or otherwise excused on historical grounds. This presentation will consider some ways in which Shakespearean drama has been part of a process of cultural evolution from entertainment to art by considering some important examples of “embarrassing” moments in Shakespeare – such as the gravedigger’s scene in Hamlet, the song and dance in Macbeth, or the play Titus Andronicus –and will discuss the ways in which twentieth century critics have sought to differentiate an idea of modern art from renaissance entertainment. It will also then address the way in which contemporary ideas of Shakespeare and English literature reveal a conflicted relationship to popular entertainment.


Session II: Modern/Contemporary Moments ①

First presentation:

Yūji Nawata is Professor of German Literature and Culture at Chuo University, Tokyo. He studied German literature at the University of Tokyo, and received his PhD in 1994 after completing his dissertation on Holderlin (published in Tokyo, 1996). After some years of research (1995-98, 2004-05) on cultural and media studies, working under Friedrich Kittler at Humboldt University, he achieved his Habilitation in Kulturwissenschaft (cultural studies) for work on comparative media studies. His areas of interest are German literature from the 18th to 21st century, German culture and media theories, and comparative cultural studies (comparing East Asia and Europe). His research has received support from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the International Research Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy (IKKM), the Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL), Literarisches Colloquium Berlin (LCB), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), and the city of Bad Homburg vor der Hohe. Publications include:

  • Kulturwissenschaftliche Komparatistik. Fallstudien. Kadmos, 2016.
  • Vergleichende Mediengeschichte: Am Beispiel deutscher und japanischer Literatur vom spaten 18. bis zum spaten 20. Jahrhundert [Comparative Media History: A Case Study of German and Japanese Literature from the Late 18th to the Late 20th Century]. Fink, 2012.
  • (Editor) Bildlichkeit und Schriftlichkeit in der deutschen Kultur zwischen Barock und Gegenwart. Mit aktuellen Ansätzen aus der Kulturwissenschaft und der Literatur. Japanische Gesellschaft für Germanistik, 2015.
  • (Japanese translation and afterword) Durs Grünbein, Lob des Taifuns: Reisetagebücher in Haikus [In Praise of Typhoons: Travel Diaries in Haiku]. Insel, 2008.

Reconsidering the Relationship between Phantasmagoria and Goethe's Faust

 "Phantasmagoria" was a kind of entertainment that was made possible by an early form of projection technology, the so called "magic lantern," which is often regarded as a precursor of the movie. In 1827-28, Goethe published the third act of the second part of his drama Faust under the title "Helena/klassisch-romantische Phantasmagorie. Zwischenspiel zu Faust" (Helena/classical-romantic phantasmagoria: Interlude to Faust), which represents   an appreciation of phantasmagoria as entertainment theater, carried out within a work of high literature. In my paper, the relationship between phantasmagoria and Goethe's Faust will be analyzed from the perspective of comparative media history.

Second presentation:

Stefan Buchenberger is Professor in the Department of Cross-Cultural Studies at Kanagawa University. He earned his PhD in Japanese Studies from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. He is involved in the study of graphic narratives at the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA), and writes regularly on graphic fiction, mystery and detective fiction (his second major field of study), popular culture, and literature in general.Publications include:

  • "Superman and the Corruption of Power.” In Joseph Darowski, ed., The Ages of Superman: Essays on the Man of Steel in Changing Times (McFarland, 2012).
  • “Comic Book Villains and the Loss of Humanity.” International Journal of Comic Art,Vol. 2,
       No. 2 (2012).
  • “James Lee Burke.” In Critical Survey of Short Fiction (Salem Press, 2012).
  • “Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles.” In Lawrence W. Mazzeno, ed., Masterplots,
      Vol. 7 (Salem Press, 2010).
  • “Graphic Mystery Novels.” In Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction (Salem Press, 2008).

The Rise of the Graphic Novel

 Ever since the modern comic book was created in 1933 with Funnies on Parade, there have been frequent discussions concerning the literary qualities of the genre, or rather its perceived lack of them. One has only to recall that mothers once commonly warned their children that reading comic books would make them stupid (whereas reading the classics would give one a deeper cultural understanding).

 The development that decisively changed perceptions of the genre from “low quality” – as defined by mass produced monthly comics of often questionable merit – to “critically acclaimed” was the rise of the so-called “graphic novel.” The graphic novel, as one would expect given the use of “novel” in the denomination, is a comic book that is more ambitious both in terms of its themes and its length, and one that aspires to a high degree of literary ambition. The term itself has been used since the 1970s, becoming broadly accepted from the publication of Will Eisner’s A Contract with God, in 1978. However, prior attempts to go beyond the genre limitations of the monthly comic were also made.

  Graphic novels expand the horizon of comics in many different ways, both on the textual and on the artistic level, as evidenced by the fact that examples of the genre have begun garnering literary prizes. In a related development, graphic images in the style of comic art can also be found incorporated into works of modern literature, which gives a further indication that the graphic novel has made the jump from “low-brow” to “high-brow” literature.

Third presentation:

Françoise Lavocat is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University Sorbonne Nouvelle– Paris 3. In 2014-15 she was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study Berlin (WIKO), and is currently an elected affiliate of the Institut Universitaire de France, an appointment which will continue through 2020. She specializes in theories of fiction (the relationship between fact and fiction; possible worlds; characters), early modern literature, and narratives of catastrophe. Publications include Arcadies malheureuses, aux origines du roman moderne (Champion, 1997); La Syrinx au bûcher, Pan et les satyres à la renaissance et à l’âge baroque (Droz, 2005); Usages et théories de la fiction, la théorie contemporaine à l’épreuve des textes anciens (Ed.; Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2004); La théorie littéraire des mondes possibles (Ed.; CNRS, 2010); and Fait et fiction, pour une frontière (Seuil, 2016).

How Fiction Has Filled the Gap between Popular and Academic Culture

  In this paper, I will develop the following hypothesis: that the status of popular culture has changed in the second part of the twentieth century for many reasons, one of them being the transformation of the status of fiction.

  In the 1950s, the act of personally identifying with fictional characters was generally considered to be naive and dangerous, above all for political reasons (see, for example, Roland Barthes' condemnation of spectators who identified with Marlon Brando in the film On the Waterfront). More generally speaking, at this time, the gap between popular reception and ideological evaluation by the intellectual elite and the academy was striking (good examples are La Peste by Camus and Les Mains sales by Jean-Paul Sartre).

By the 1980s, however, this situation had totally changed, as a result of the rise of theories of fiction and the disappearance of the literary canon (see for example the essays by Stanley Cavell collected in his book Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage).

  Nowadays, the gap between popular culture as entertainment and high culture does not exist anymore. Academics are extremely benevolent towards popular culture: video games, blockbusters, fan-created fiction and television series are intensely studied. Moreover, we may now be able to witness the fictionalisation of knowledge (in museums, for instance). What are the consequences of this phenomenon for fiction and for knowledge?

Session III: Modern/Contemporary Moments ②

First presentation:

Kai Mikkonen is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Helsinki. He earned his MA at the University of Iowa in 1991, and PhD at the University of Tampere in 1997. He is a Life Member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge. His current research and teaching interests include graphic narratives and comics, narrative theory and theories of fiction, travel writing and literary modernism. He is the author of The Narratology of Comic Art (under review), Narrative Paths: African Travel in Modern Fiction and Nonfiction (The Ohio State UP, 2015), Kuva ja sana[Image and Word in Interaction] (Gaudeamus, 2005), and The Plot Machine: the French Novel and the Bachelor Machines in the Electric Years (1880-1914) (Rodopi, 2001), as well as various articles in periodicals such as Style, Partial Answers, Narrative, Word & Image, Image & Narrative,Studies in Travel Writingand Journal of Literary Semantics.

Comics as Art, Art as Comics

 Today, comics are increasingly considered literature, art, and an important cultural practice that deserves attention in its own right. Graphic novels compete for literary awards and are regularly reviewed by major presses; comics are exhibited in art museums and galleries; and they can be found in education everywhere, included in elementary school reading lists and serving as the primary material studied by literature majors working on graphic narrative, or in programs dedicated to comics studies. Comics attract sustained scholarly attention today, and comics-related research can be published in peer-reviewed journals and academic book series. This all means that it has become increasingly tricky for anyone to locate comics on a continuum between High and Low culture. Further, the transformation of the cultural value of this medium does not just concern the formally complex graphic novels that are granted recognition in the literary and the art worlds: to some extent it also extends to mass-produced comics that seek to provide entertainment.

  In this paper, I want to consider the evolved cultural status of comics from the viewpoint of hybrid artistic production that appropriates comic art forms and iconography as a means for cultural critique in the art gallery, and concomitantly illustrates the dynamic back-and-forth transmutation between high and popular culture. More precisely, I will ask what the appropriation of comics iconography in today’s art galleries does to the dichotomy of High and Low (or Popular): reinforce it, overcome it, both, or something else? How are contemporary appropriations of comic art forms by galleries different from those that took place in the 1950s, and the 1960s pop art utilization of the comics panel? And how is comics-inspired visual art different in this respect from graphic novels that reference and re-draw famous works of art?

Second presentation:

Rina Tanaka graduated from the Department of Cross-Cultural Studies at Kanagawa University, and is currently pursuing her MA in the Graduate School of Global Japanese Studies at Meiji University. Her primary research interest is the culture of musicals staged by the Viennese musical production company Vereinigte Bühnen Wien (United Stages Vienna) since the 1990s, with a particular focus on representations of the paradoxical coexistence of catharsis and anticatharsis. In July, she will give a presentation titled “Post-Globalization in Genre Musicals?: A Case of ‘Ever-Growing’ Musicals from Vienna via Japan” at the Annual Conference of the Japanese Society for Theatre Research. Her article “Beyond the Oedipus Complex: The Viennese Musical Project Freudiana (1990) and its ‘Flop’” will appear in the Journal of Global Japanese Studies (No. 5) in September, 2016.

Beyond the Oedipus Complex: The “Flop” of Freudiana, the Viennese Musical that Dreamed of Being both Entertainment and Art

 In December 1990, the psycho-musical Freudiana,which featured themes adopted from the work of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), opened at the Theater an der Wien. This musical was intended to be the first original production of the Vereinigte Bühnen Wien (United Stages Vienna) company to be exported internationally, to compete with musicals from Broadway and the West End. However, it neither achieved export nor was ever repeated in Vienna.

 Conditioned by feelings of inferiority vis-à-vis English-language musicals produced in the UK and the US – feelings that had existed since World War II – the project’s goal was to establish an “Austrian Musical” for both global audiences and the Viennese intelligentsia (the latter controlling municipal financial support for the theater). While Freudianarepresented an ambitious attempt at a theatrical response to Freud and his psychoanalysis, utilizing the form of the musical, this concept was finally not fully accepted by its audience, which thought of the musical as a commercial genre focused on entertainment. Freudiana, which received praise only for its visual interest, was stigmatized as a “flop.”

  However, a consideration of the connection between Freudiana and its successful successor Elisabeth (first performed in 1992) reveals that Freudiana played a significant role as a vanguard for Elisabeth (as well as later works), serving to establish a new type of musical: one that addresses “the abyss that exists within the nation’s history and mentality”; a fantastical revue that serves to “awaken.” In this formula, musicals play with the pre-existing modes of entertainment and invert them, as kitsch. Although Freudiana was finally torn apart between the poles of entertainment and high-brow intellectualism, it suggested a viable strategy for Viennese musicals.

Third presentation:

Tracy Lassiter received her MA in Comparative Literature from Indiana University in 2003, and her PhD in English Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2013. Now Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Mexico-Gallup, she has also taught at Eastern Arizona College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Butler County Community College. Her primary research area is petrofiction, which is literature that depicts life for societies grappling with the consequences of the Oil Encounter. She published on this topic in Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies and the 2015 anthology Energy in Literature. Her review of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s novel Stoneappears in the May/June issue of Postmodern Culture. Another of her research interests is graphic novels, and she has presented at the International Comparative Literature Association’s Congresses in Hong Kong, Seoul, and Paris on various books in this genre, including Futaba-Kun Change. Her article “Metafiction: The Graphic Novel Embedded in Laura Esquivel’s Multimedia Novel The Law of Love” appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of the International Journal of Comic Art.

The Elevation of Street Art: Subversion Goes Mainstream

 Not to be confused with graffiti, tagging, or vandalism, street art has an aesthetic purpose and makes political statements. That is, it intentionally moves art out of elite, designated sites like galleries and museums to put art before the public and in the commons. As street-art scholar Nicholas Alden Riggle argues, street art emerges from post-modernism but is not post-modern or even post-post-modern. Rather, the genre occupies its own space, serving as “the other response to Modern separation of life and art.” Scholars like Cameron McAuliffe further link street art’s emergence to the postindustrial economy, noting it provides “the opportunity to rethink the way the creative practices of graffiti writers and street artists are valued.”

  As this symposium’s organizers note, then, certain conditions – like the postindustrial economy – occur “that make such moments of cultural uplift possible.” In this presentation, I will introduce key figures from the contemporary street art moment and describe the different media – stenciling, postcards, cutouts, and so on – that street art employs. My central argument will be that street art is a form of creative backlash against the consequences of decades of neoliberal economic activities. I’ll further discuss the recent and concomitant rise in academic research into the street art phenomenon, which ranges from studies in consumer behavior to analyses of political protests and questions concerning moral philosophy. I will discuss whether such academic attention moves these creative works from the realm of subversion into mainstream acceptance.

For an overview of the event’s conception and theme, please see the symposium announcement.

For the titles of the symposium’s three sessions, names of presenters, titles of presentations and the event schedule please see the symposium schedule.

For abstracts of the presentations and introductory information about the presenters, please see the symposium program.

For directions to the Yokohama campus of Kanagawa University, please follow this link.

For more information, please contact the event co-organizers:
Christian Ratcliff:ratcliff@kanagawa-u.ac.jp
Stefan Buchenberger:ft101819sc@kanagawa-u.ac.jp