Naoko Asanospoke at the first Tokyo Humanities cafe in June 2017. She is a researcher at the Mori Memorial Foundation, where she is compiling a report on the development of cultural cities and also teaches at the University of the Sacred Heart as a part-time lecturer. Her passion for art, fashion and literature has led her to work as a contributing writer/blogger for ELLE Japan.
She has recently submitted a thesis titled “Shakespeare in Pre-Raphaelite Millais: Millais’s Fidelity to Shakespeare’s Texts in Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (1849-50), Mariana (1850-51) and Ophelia (1851-52)” and received a Ph.D. degree from the University of the Sacred Heart. She previously examined trendsetting in fine arts in the Cultural and Creative Industries M.A. course at King’s College London.
1. Can you describe a turning point in your career?
As a postdoc and aspiring researcher, I'm still unsure if I should call them 'turning points' but there are two: One is when I quit a fairly-paid, stable job and moved to London for an MA. Quite new to the whole study of cultural and creative industries, I realised there are so much more than Shakespeare and Victorian paintings (which I'd already been passionate about) and learned a lot.
Another is when I decided to pursue a PhD in humanities. I was then wondering what I should do after MA and received a call from a professor who taught me all about Shakespeare. She--who later became my supervisor in PhD--asked me if I'd be interested in coming back to her and doing a doctoral study, and I was like, "why not?"
2. What question are you currently exploring in your work?
How well did John Everett Millais know his Shakespeare? Which particular editions had he likely read? In what way and to what extent did Millais's circle of friends--with men of letters, artists, and society women--inspire his art-making?
3. Which artist or writer has had the most influence on you?
John Everett Millais, all the way.
But apart from him, probably Japanese writers, Soseki Natsume, Yasushi Inoue, Shusaku Endo and Ayako Miura, as well as C. S. Lewis and F. S. Fitzgerald (I know they sound pretty irrelevant to my own study though...)
4. What do you think is the value of the humanities?
It keeps enlightening and reminding all of us that we are inherently visionary and creative.
5. What does the future hold for your field?
I don't think there are currently many people who examine Victorian paintings, focusing on their affinities with the literary texts as I do; so honestly I still don't know where this field of study is going to. Having said that, I hope it will reveal new aspects of Millais as artist-businessman and also contribute to the study of the Victorian reception of Shakespeare.