Don’t mention the War! Writing the Alienated Self in Post-war Japan – Mark Williams

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This paper represents an attempt to consider how artists in general—and Japanese post-war novelists in particular—deal with traumatic experience and how this process is reflected in their subsequent literary texts. More specifically, it will consider how two Japanese immediate post-war authors, Shimao Toshio (1917–86) and Shiina Rinzō (1911–73)—neither of whom saw active experience at the front but who both emerged, by their own admission, heavily traumatized from their experiences of the period—tackled the issue of depicting in their literary texts their wartime experiences and their subsequent attempts to return to ‘normal’ life in the immediate aftermath of war. The literary process whereby they first ‘act out’ and subsequently ‘work through’ their particular traumatic experiences will be examined—and, in so doing, their oeuvres will be presented as ongoing, collaborative projects aimed at more fully ‘constituting’ certain traumatic events in cognitive, affective and ethical terms.

Mark Williams took his BA in Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford and a PhD in Japanese Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He has spent most of career at the University of Leeds, UK, where he is Professor of Japanese Studies. He was Head of East Asian Studies between 2000-04, and Chair of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures between 2006-11. He was also President of the British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS), 2008-11. Between 2011-14, he was seconded as Vice President for Academic Affairs to Akita International University, Akita, Japan.

He has published extensively, in English and Japanese. His published works include: Endō Shūsaku: A Literature of Reconciliation (Routledge); Christianity and Japan: Impacts and Responses (Macmillan; co-edited with John Breen), Representing the Other in Modern Japanese Literature: A Critical Approach (Routledge; co-edited with Rachael Hutchinson) and Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and Responding to Trauma in Post-war Japanese Literature and Film (Brill; co-edited with David Stahl). He is also the translator of Foreign Studies and The Girl I Left Behind, two novels by the Japanese author, Endō Shūsaku.

Date: Monday 18 May 2015, 6.45pm
Venue: The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

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