Literature and Disaster in Japan: Reflections from History and the Present Day

Date: 13 March 2012 from 6.30pm
Venue: The Japan Foundation, 10-12 Russell Square, London WC1B 5EH

Commemorating one year since the Great East Japan Earthquake, The Japan Foundation presents an evening looking at the relationship between literature and disaster in Japanese history. Writers have often been called upon to try to help society come to terms with the challenges of tragic events in Japan’s past. Correspondingly, such events have periodically led to significant changes within Japan’s literary world. This event will examine some of these historical examples with the purpose of seeking an outlook of hope in the wake of last year’s events in the Tohoku region.

Dr Stephen Dodd, Senior Lecturer in Japanese at SOAS, will discuss the way in which the Great Kanto Earthquake brought about profound cultural changes in 1920s Japan, particularly in the area of literature. The earthquake opened up the possibility of entirely new modes of living to become the topics of literary work. He will touch briefly on a range of literary responses, including the work of Tanizaki Jun’ichiro, Yokomitsu Riichi and Kobayashi Takiji. Prof Izumi Ohmoto will respond to this historical outlook on Japanese literature, as well as touching on her own experience of recent events from her position as Professor at Sendai Shirayuri Women’s College. Prof Ohmoto is also a member of the Women Authors Committee of The Japan P.E.N. Club. Finally, Karan Kurose, a tanka poet, will talk about the response of the Japanese poetry community to the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, providing examples of poems written in the aftermath of these events. He is editor of Mirai and a member of the Modern Tanka Poet Society.

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