East Asian Languages & Cultures
B.A., University of Pennsylvania; Ph.D., Columbia University
Barbara Morris Caspersen Associate Professor of Humanities; Associate Professor of Japanese
Modern Japanese literature; how writers (and manga artists) use "girlhood" to express views on gender, sexuality, and history.
I am writing a book on how the fluid category of “girlhood” is used by female writers and manga artists in postwar Japan to express views on gender, sexuality, and history. My first book, a study of Nakagami Kenji, was a literary “ethnography” of a key Japanese writer from the burakumin (outcaste) class. What unites my two projects is my sense that what seems to be peripheral to Japanese culture often turns out to be symbolically central. In a past life (before Wellesley), I did translation, publishing a collection of Nakagami’s short stories and the autobiography of a Japanese strawberry farmer in California.
My favorite new classes are a course on the Japanese supernatural, which explores how old myths and strange beings shaped the formation of modern consciousness, and a course on coming-of-age narratives from around the globe (comparative literature). I also enjoy teaching fourth-year Japanese, popular culture, postwar Japanese fiction and, especially, Japanese film. I’ve supervised some excellent theses and independent projects in my time at Wellesley: Godzilla, Kurosawa meets the American western, Mech anime, early Mishima, Sumii Sue and the buraku, Yamada Amy, Takarazuka, and Murakami Haruki, among others.
Within Wellesley, I support the Associated Kyoto Program and serve as its campus representative. I’ve also helped organize events on the Wellesley campus, such as Common Text (Godzilla), and I have most enjoyed working with colleagues in inter-departmental initiatives such as the Newhouse Center, the Comparative Literature program, the Albright Institute, and Cinema and Media Studies.
Outside Wellesley, I am co-editing an international volume (Japan, Europe, the U.S.) entitled Theorizing Japanese Literature: Memories, Evocations, Ghosts. I currently serve as an elected representative to the Association for Asian Studies and I’ve been an associate in research at the Reischauer Institute for the past decade.
I am a fan of girls’ basketball games and high school theatre productions. My children grew up on the Wellesley campus and they still enjoy wading barefoot in Paramecium Pond when it overflows. So do I.