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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

The Boogie Woogie Constitution and Postwar Literature: The Creolization of Culture in Occupied Japan

5. Juni 2001 / 18.30

John Treat (Professor, Yale University)

The occupation of Japan (1945-1952) is recognized as a period of intense change in Japan, including the Japanese language itself. In this presentation Treat will look at a variety of both high and low textual and cultural icons of the Occupation Period. Examples will include the 1949 Constitution; Noma Hiroshi’s famous novella inaugurating postwar fiction, Kurai e; Shishi Bunroku’s popular novel of 1950, Jiyū gakkō; and the lyrics to popular songs song by such stars as Kasagi Shizuko and Misora Hibari. The objective is to understand better how Japan – or rather, different strata of Japanese people – variously responded linguistically to quasi-colonization under the Allies. Questions of language during these years are linked, Treat will argue, not only to vocabulary to but to questions of individual agency (shutaisei) and national sovereignty in ways seldom noted in the extant scholarship.

John Treat is Professor of modern Japanese language and literature at Yale University and co-editor of The Journal of Japanese Studies. His recent publications include Writing Ground Zero: Japanese Literature and the Atomic Bomb, University of Chicago Press, 1995, Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture, ed. Curzon Press/University of Hawaii Press, 1996, Great Mirrors Shattered: Orientalism, Homosexuality and Japan (Oxford, 1999). The talk is abstracted from his forthcoming book, Governing Metaphors: A History of Modern Japanese Literature.