SFU English 380: Mutilation and Foreign Relations in the Japanese Novel

A class blog for students of English 380 - "Literature in Translation" - at Simon Fraser University in Autumn 2005.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Pictures from Nitobe (to Music.)

Classfellow Raymond has uploaded pictures he took during our field trip to Nitobe Gardens here. You will also find audio clips of traditional Japanese music on his file list. They are all very well done, and some of them are absolutely stunning. Click on this sample picture for the full effect.

Arigato Gozaimashita, Raymond-san.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

More Nitobe Photography

The SFU Librarian who accompanied us on our Nitobe tour also took pictures and send us this as her most evocative shot of Nitobe Garden's Japanese aesthetic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Amanda has kindly posted the visuals from her presentation on the cha-no-yu, here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Group Project Update

You should have your group blog well up and running at this point in the term.

All group members should have two or three preliminary posts each and a growing level of familiarity with blogger.com

Blog posts do not have to be long, nor need they be discursive. At a rough estimate, three posts per week per person is a good average, and only one of these every two weeks need be significantly lengthy - that is, an extended reflection on some aspect of your blog focus. Shorter posts can be done in an idle five, ten or fifteen minute break among regular computer time.

You will be graded on the variety, frequency, even distribution among group members, relevancy, and imagination of your posts. Simply make a note when an idea or connection arises related to your theme and them make a quick blog entry.

In five years or so, students will be blogging frustrations, excitements, and requests for collaborative assistance while writing course assignments ....

Less Wiki more Encyclo

(Even more) problems with wiki-(grimace)-pedia detailed here. The Encyclopedia Brittanica was good enough for Sherlock Holmes .....

Monday, October 24, 2005

Field Trip This Week

A reminder that we have our Field Trip to Nitobe Gardens this week, on Thursday. The class treasurer asks me to remind you to bring your five dollar contribution to our feast to Tuesday's lecture.
I will be leaving for the Gardens at 11:20 precisely from the "L" lot, behind the W.A.C. Bennett Library, and can take five more people.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Good news: Instructor Wrong

I'm glad to report that I spoke wrongly in lecture today: I was not wrong in the Japanese title of Silence: it is Chinmoku.

So, it is right that I was wrong that was wrong so I was right.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Milton's Satan & Mizoguchi's Hell

These lines from Book I of Milton's Paradise Lost express Satan's idea that Hell is a state of mind:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same ....
This is what Mishima surely has in mind with Kashiwagi's remark that "Beautiful scenery is Hell, ins't it?" and elsewhere.

Mid-Term Deadline Change

The Department's position on Friday's planned political protest around issues of the Public School teachers' present illegal strike supports an extension of our mid-term essay deadline until Monday midnight: i.e. October 25th, 00:05.

Accordingly, to ensure fairness, for those classmembers who have already handed their mid-term essays in, I will extend for them them deadline for the Final Paper commensurately.

I'm looking forward to reading all your papers: I am eager to see and learn from your responses to, and scholarly developments of, our course themes and issues.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Clint Eastwood on the Course Thesis

Via Sydney Morning Herald:
The movie legend Clint Eastwood is making two new films about the World War II battle for the island of Iwo Jima, one from the US point of view and the other from the Japanese side .... In a rare move in Hollywood, the counter-balanced movies will be released simultaneously late next year.

More here.

Mid-Term Essay Revised Deadline

A reminder for you that the extended deadline for your mid-term essay is 00:05, Saturday October 22nd -- i.e. five minutes past midnight on Friday night -- in my mailbox at the Department.

Willard Van Orman Quine

A good presentation of Quine's "gavagai" thought experiment is here.

The argument is in Quine's Word & Object, on Course Reserve.

Update: Thomas Nagel's article is on-line here (as well as being on Course Reserve.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Japan's PM War Memorial Controversy

On Japan, its history & Shintoism.
Via cnn.com:
TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi prayed on Monday at a Tokyo war shrine that Asian critics say glorifies Japan's past militarism, in a visit likely to anger the country's neighbors. Japan's 2.5 million war dead are worshipped as deities at Yasukuni Shrine, which belongs to Japan's native Shinto religion. They include convicted war criminals executed by the Allies after World War II, such as wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

Japanese court rules the visit is illegal. And South Korea protests.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mid-term Paper

I am, of course, available for consultation on your mid-term paper in my scheduled Office Hours, or by appointment. For instance, I will read and rigorously edit your thesis paragraph and read and make suggestions on your second paragraph, in person.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Guest Speaker

We have our first guest speaker during Thursday's class: Toshimi Ono, the Director of SFU's Japanese Culture & Communication Program.
Ms. Ono is an excellent person to whom you can address any questions about Japanese culture following her talk which will give an overview to Japan as the Japanese see it.


The individual presentations so far have been admirably informative: successfully increasing our knowledge of some vertical aspects of Japanese culture past & present. Moreover, each of them has done some aspect of presentation technique very well. As mentioned in the assignment post, one doesn't go too far in one's future career, amateur or professional, without needing to give a short, sharp, pointed presentation.
    • Melani included video footage that perfectly demonstrated her argument.
    • Louise put an actual flower arrangement front & centre throughout her presentation on ikebana, providing a vivid yet unobtrusive visual anchor.
    • Tina wisely selected a singular focus on geisha for its specific appeal to a contemporary Western audience: to wit, the popular misconception that geisha are prostitutes.
    • Barb pirouetted with flair at the conclusion of a technical presentation on modern Japanese politics by her canny and engaging connection to the central theme of the current course text.
    • Karen found a visual for perhaps the most salient feature of her topic -- manga -- and projected images of four distinct types of modern Japanese in the ubiquitous custom of reading manga on public transit.
    • Grace designed her presentation on hikikomori with admirable academic form around her own thesis on the cause of the disturbing cultural phenomenon among young males in modern Japan.
I know that equally effective presentations are upcoming from our superlative class ....

Nitobe Gardens

Follow this link to the Nitobe Gardens: I will have a date shortly for our field trip and Japanese-food feast.
For those who are not close enough to UBC to make a direct trip efficient, a carpool would seem to be the preferred option of travel. I can take six people: please add your vehicle capacity in the comments section. Perhaps carpool drivers (me excepted) could be made exempt from the collection of funds (a fiver each?) for our feast on the day?

A volunteer treasurer is needed for this event .....

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mid-Term Assignment

Write two thousand words on one of the following:

1.] In The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Yukio Mishima portrays the absolute alienation of the acolyte Zen monk Mizoguchi. In an important passage Mizoguchi, the book’s narrator, describes his fellow acolyte Tsurukawa as his “translator”. Explain fully, first, what Mizoguchi means by this in the context of the story; and, second, how Mishima’s use of the concept illuminates the impossibility of radical translation (in Quine's and Nagel's sense) between Japanese and Western civilisations.

2.] Shusaku Endo’s imaginative retelling in Chinmoku of the violent persecution of early Japanese Christians and foreign missionaries states the conclusion that all Western ideas will eventually be sucked under and engulfed by the “swamp of Japan”. Discuss how that phrase integrates with the novel as a whole. Concentrate your discussion on Endo’s skillfully ambiguous portrayal of the dialectic between Rodrigues and Inoue, presenting in detail your analysis of how the novelist’s own voice speaks in one or both of the characters.

3.] Concentrating exclusively on Sei Shonagon’s reflections on nature – the landscape, the weather, trees and plants, the ocean – interpret her Pillow Book as being a foundational text for the development of mono no aware in Japanese culture. In your analytical interpretation, incorporate an argument for the contribution of its commonplace book form to this wider aesthetic.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Memoirs of a Geisha

From our informative presentation today, the link for the trailer to the upcoming movie Memoirs of a Geisha is here.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

On Reserve

For your personal research, I have The Japanese Today by Reischauer & Jansen. Section 3, "Society" includes chapters entitled:

  • The Group
  • Relativism
  • Hierarchy
  • Women
  • Religion
  • Mass Culture

As they say, "FYI".