Tom Dabbs spoke at the first Tokyo Humanities cafe in June 2017. He came of age at Dabbs Crossroads, South Carolina, USA, and is Professor of English at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, where he has taught Shakespeare and the English Bible since 2003. Prior to this he taught at Hiroshima University. He is the author of Reforming Marlowe: the Nineteenth-Century Canonization of a Renaissance Dramatist and Genesis in Japan: The Bible beyond Christianity. His recent research and publication focuses on the St Paul’s cathedral precinct in early modern London and the impact of this area on Shakespearean drama.
1. Can you describe a turning point in your career?
More than one, but maybe the most important turning point was when I was trying to decide whether to take a college job in the States or opt for the bigger pay offer I’d gotten from Japan, a 3-year contract. That was well over 20 years ago, and I hadn’t traveled much outside the States at that point.
I talked to some guy in a bar, and he said, ‘Man, go for the pay. Plus they got good food, and everyone speaks English over there.'
2. What question are you currently exploring in your work?
How a churchyard beside a cathedral church in central London during the 16th century, one overfilled with dead people, became pretty much ground zero for what is incorrectly called the Age of Shakespeare.
3. Which artist or writer has had the most influence on you?
4. What do you think is the value of the humanities?
Shut down the Globe theatre in London and hear the screams.