East Asian Languages & Cultures
B.A., Westmont College; M.A., Columbia University; M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University
Green Hall 234C
Robert GoreeAssistant Professor of Japanese
Japanese language, literature, visual culture, geography, and history of print culture.
My research and teaching focus on the literary and cultural complexity of Japan, in particular how literary and quasi-literary forms intersect with commercial publishing, illustrated books, visual art, and geography from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. My own circuitous and never dull path to this kind of scholarly inquiry started with a liberal arts education, which is just one of the reasons why I'm thrilled to be here at Wellesley.
The monograph I'm currently working on—Illustrated Gazetteers and the Mapping of Culture in Early Modern Japan––investigates the emergence and cultural impact of best-selling geographic guidebooks published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A case study for understanding the sophistication of commercial publishing in Japan before the modern age, the study demonstrates how the editors of the these monumentally sized books worked with publishers and illustrators to work out a new kind of documentary aesthetic in the representation of landscape and place. This empirically-oriented aesthetic, in turn, made a profound impact on a large and socially diverse readership's perception of geography as a category of shared culture. Studying these incredibly rich illustrated gazetteers has had the added benefit of prompting new interests, including the history of advertising and the alterity of Japan's cartographic tradition.
Before coming to Wellesley, I taught at Harvard University, Columbia University, and Boston University, where I offered courses on traditional Japanese literature, major texts of the East Asian tradition, early modern Japanese cultural history, early modern Japanese visual culture, and Japanese historical film. At Wellesley, I plan to bring my multidisciplinary experience to bear on courses designed to help students come to their own conclusions about the significance of literary and cultural phenomena in broader historical context. In concrete terms, this means teaching courses on prose fiction and non-fiction from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, an introduction to the culture of early modern Japan, historical films made in post-war Japan, and a broad-based introduction to Japanese culture through its poetry. I'm also looking forward to showing students the ropes in Japanese language classes.
Before turning to the formal study of Japan, I studied English into my mid-twenties, and then worked at the Modern Language Association of America in New York City and McKinsey & Company in Tokyo and Prague. These experiences have given me a valuable (some might say quirky) perspective on my academic specialty, one that has inspired curiosity about the continuities and discontinuities between: literary activity and other cultural phenomena; the pre-modern and modern eras; and Japan and the rest of the world. I'm also an active translator and my work has appeared in the NHK television program and book series called J-bungaku.
Inspired by fiction and poetry from all over the world, I have a regular creative writing practice of my own, which, among many other valuable things, keeps me honest in my critical appreciation of Japanese writers. I'm also an avid hiker, runner, swimmer, and cyclist, with one triathlon under my belt and more to come. Now that New England is my home (and not my native California), I plan to add skiing to the mix.