The Unfolding of Japanese Literature as a Nietzschean Adventure
Lecture by Dr. Damian Flanagan
It's remarkably little known in Japan just how transforming the great German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche was to some of the nation’s greatest writers—particularly Soseki Natsume, Ryunosuke Akutagawa and Yukio Mishima.
In Soseki’s private library no book contains as much marginalia as his copy of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, a book whose ideas we can see transformed and given a comic twist throughout Soseki’s landmark novel, “I am a Cat”.
While Soseki mulled Nietzsche’s ideas, the translator Choko Ikuta appeared on his doorstep begging for his help in the gargantuan task of translating “Zarathustra” into Japanese. Soon Soseki was depicting Ikuta in his novel “And Then” and loading his subsequent novel “The Gate” with profoundly Nietzschean philosophic concepts, closely linked to Zen.
The young literary prodigy Akutagawa meanwhile was so besotted with Nietzsche that despite being in the habit of selling books as he read them so that he could buy others, when he encountered his own copy of “Zarathustra” in a bookshop, he couldn’t stop himself buying it back again.
In the post-war era, Yukio Mishima loved Nietzsche so much that after his spectacular death in 1970, his mother left a copy of Nietzsche on his altar to read for all eternity. Mishima’s great works “Confessions of a Mask”, “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion” and “Kyoko’s House” and many others were all underpinned in different ways by Nietzschean concepts.
This talk will tell the epic story of this meeting of Japan’s greatest literary minds with Nietzsche’s revolutionary ideas.
12 June 2019 (Wed.), 6:30 p.m.
OAG-Haus / German Cultural Center, ドイツ文化会館 (map)
Contact: Stefan Keppler-Tasaki, email@example.com
No fee / No registration
"Conceptualising China in Modern Europe": a lecture by Professor Dr. Yixu Lu (University of Sydney / JSPS Fellow at the University of Tokyo)
"Understanding China is a challenge, not least because we tend to become involved in contradictory past understandings. From the early 18th to the middle 19th century there is a curious oscillation in Western ideas of China from the strongly positive to the equally negative. Thus, for Leibniz, on the threshold of the Enlightenment, China was defined positively as what Europe was not, whereas for Herder and Hegel China is immune to progress. Ferdinand von Richthofen displaces the myth of stagnation and sets the pendulum swinging towards a China full of the promise of an industrialised future.
"This lecture traces China’s changing image from a model of statecraft to a senile and corrupt culture in the 18th and 19th century and argues that this change is a result of sanctifying the idea of “progress” as the telos of human history in modern Europe."
Tuesday, May 21, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
University of Tokyo, Komaba, Building 18, 4th floor, Collaboration Room 3
More details at: https://conceptualisingchina.wordpress.com/
On Friday, 31st May (5.30pm - 6.45pm), Professor Carrie Shanafelt (Fairleigh Dickinson University) will give a paper at Sophia University (Yotsuya campus) titled "Cugoano's Economics: Urban Space and Labor in an Eighteenth-Century Slavery Narrative."
"In Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano describes his encounters with Caribbean and British labor practices from the perspective of West African ethics. Through an Afrocentric interpretation of John Locke, Adam Smith, and the Christian Bible, Cugoano challenges the emergent libertarian discourse of human rights in the context of Atlantic slavery. Cugoano concludes that the escalation of economic and moral debts incurred through abuse of African and indigenous American peoples can only be ended by a radical form of global forgiveness. Unlike his contemporary Olaudah Equiano, who urged Africans to “modernize” by adopting European technology and competing in global markets, Cugoano instead demanded that Europe must adopt African economic ethics in order to live up to the promise of their own discourse of human rights.
This talk considers Cugoano’s Thoughts and Sentiments in the context of urban space, global economics, and travel writing of the late eighteenth century. His comparative descriptions of labor in West Africa, the Caribbean, and London reveal structural inequalities in economic systems of profit that ultimately impoverish not only enslaved and colonized persons, but also entire nations. Cugoano’s tripartite proposal for the forgiveness of British national debt—both financial and moral—offers an imagined occasion for reckoning the accounts of the past for a more inclusive and sustainable economic and political future. Dr Shanafelt compares Cugoano’s plan for total global debt forgiveness to David Graeber’s 2011 anthropological analysis of the global debt crisis, Debt: The First 5000 Years. She argues that, like Cugoano, Graeber also analyzes European capitalist economics through an Afrocentric account of alternatives to class stratification and debt slavery."
Venue: Sophia University, Building 2, room 508.
Event is free and open to all. See here for access map (nearest station is Yotsuya).
No registration is required (but please email the organizer if you are interested in coming to dinner afterwards).
Friday, 17 May, 13:30 - 15:00, Meiji University.
This talk explores approaches to special needs education in Japan from an anthropological perspective. Based on fieldwork at private schools that cater to special needs children and at public elementary schools, the speaker shows that contemporary approaches to education for “gray zone” children reflect varied interpretations of how to create a meaningful place for children with diverse needs in a competitive and demanding society.
Lynne Nakano is Professor in the Department of Japanese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is author of Community Volunteers in Japan: Everyday Stories of Social Change (Routledge, 2004).
Venue: 3F 4021 Global Front Bldg., Surugadai Campus, Meiji University
Campus map / Japanese map
Contact: Dr Toru Yamada (see poster above).
Dr. Sarah Olive of the University of York (UK) will be giving a special lecture titled "Reviewing Theatre: The Case of Hamlet" at Meiji University (Surugadai Campus) on Tuesday, May 21 at 1:30 pm - 3.10 pm.
In this talk, Dr. Olive will discuss some of the fundamentals of theatre reviewing, from exploring "why write a review?", to offering tips for writing well about theatre. She will illustrate her talk with examples from a variety of productions of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Hamlet: from the recent London West End version starring British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, to a silent film version with Danish actress Asta Nielsen.
Location: Room 308G (8th floor) Academy Common, Meiji University (Surugadai Campus) . Campus map / Google map.
Free entry. No registration needed. Anyone (undergraduate students to researchers) will be welcome. Talk will be given in English (with Japanese interpretation for Q & A session).
Please contact the organiser, Alex Watson (alex_watson [at] meiji.ac.jp) for any inquiries.
(Click on either image for a downloadable flier).
Tokyo Humanities - Events
Upcoming humanities-related events in Tokyo.