Guided by Seidensticker

KATAOKA Mai (Associate Professor)
August 22, 2023

I took up my post this spring as associate professor in Nichibunken’s Research Division. I work on English translations and the editing and publishing process of modern and contemporary Japanese literature, as well as upon its reception and dissemination. I particularly focus on the novels of Kawabata Yasunari, Mishima Yukio, and Tanizaki Jun’ichirō as they were introduced to an English-language readership after the second world war.

I first learned of Nichibunken when I was gathering material on Edward G Seidensticker, the renowned translator of Kawabata. I have a vague recollection of having heard the word “Nichibunken” when studying Japanese literature on my masters course at a university in Britain. But I only became fully aware of Nichibunken when, having finished my masters, I was working for a research consultancy company. Even as I was engaged with the “relocalization” of foreign brands, I started to think of returning to academia to research aspects of the “between-ness” (aida) of language and culture. As I was researching Seidensticker, the prompt for my return to academia, I found a record of a lecture he had delivered at Nichibunken.

Guided by Seidensticker, I thus learned of Nichibunken and its doctoral program, and was fortunate to spend several years here obtaining my doctorate. I subsequently went on to have all manner of experiences at other universities here in Japan and overseas, but here are some of the things that from time to time I yearned to experience again: the quiet research environment at Nichibunken that does not exist in regular universities, the stimulating intellectual exchange with researchers from various backgrounds, and the Nichibunken library which was such an inspiration to my research whenever I visited.

I hope to savor once more the richness of this environment, which I can appreciate precisely because of my travels. At the same time, I wish to contribute by communicating to others the charm of Nichibunken and the outcomes of my research, which are born of that charm, and to engage actively in exchange with other scholars. I look forward to working with you all!

The English language translations of some of the Japanese novels I read while in graduate school. (Photo: Kataoka Mai.)

The English language translations of some of the Japanese novels I read while in graduate school. (Photo: Kataoka Mai.)