Organized Panel Session
Modern Japanese literature was born out of the conversations with Euro-American literatures that Japan’s literati initiated, through translations and adaptations, in the wake of the Meiji Restoration. Subsequently, foreign as well as domestic scholars continued to use “Western” (literary) theories to analyze works of modern, but sometimes also classical, Japanese literature. However, this approach has come under fire lately, for failing to question the universality of “Western” discourses. As a result, several translations of Japanese critical texts that offer “native” Japanese theoretical frameworks have been published in the last few decades, including Nihon no bungaku riron: ansorojī (Japanese Literary Theories: An Anthology, Oura Yasusuke, ed., 2017), which members of this panel are currently translating into English.
The goal of this panel will be to flesh out some of the challenges of translating modern Japanese literary theory into English, with a particular focus on instances where the translator is confronted with the task of rendering into English a Japanese literary term or concept that originated in “Western” discourses, but evolved in its own way in Japan. The presenters and discussants will consider the following questions: What layers of meaning accumulate when (re)translating into English Japanese terms that correspond to “fiction,” “description,” and “poetry”? What roles do “native” Japanese as well as Sinitic texts and contexts play in the process? How does translating modern Japanese literary theory into English make us rethink the notions of modern literature and modernity in general?