1. Modern and Contemporary Japanese Literature
My doctoral dissertation on Mishima Yukio, a representative author of postwar Japan, was published in 1976 and is a structuralist analysis of his most voluminous single work, the novel Kyōko no ie, contextualizing it within the author’s oeuvre and relating it to its various ‚literary sub-systems’. My habilitation thesis of 1979 (pub. 1981) on the autobiographical genre of shishōsetsu systematizes its theory and history and shows how the genre functions within the socio-cultural communicative system. Authors and works from the early twentieth century down to the present are dealt with in articles and essays under aspects of literary sociology and production aesthetics. A comprehensive guide to modern Japanese literature was published in 2000. Under my editorship, a series entitled Japanische Bibliothek, consisting of translations into German of paradigmatic texts of Japanese literature from all periods and genres and including substantial postscripts or introductions, was published in 32 vols. plus two collections of essays between 1993 and 2000.
2. Literary Comparison and Intercultural Studies
In relating their ‚objects‘ of study to the framework of the culturally familiar, non-Japanese researchers of Japanese literature and culture automatically take an (implicit) comparative approach. It is essential, however, to make these epistemological premises explicit and intentional. For a critical approach to modern Japanese literature, issues of incorporation or exclusion of the (Western) Other promise far-reaching insights. Several essays on these issues are collected in my Was heißt: Japanische Literatur verstehen? (Understanding Japanese Literature, pub. 1990). References to ‚Asia‘ and the ‚discovery‘ or ‚re-discovery‘ of Asian ‚roots‘ in modern Japanese literature also fall under this rubric. In the context of a project of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences entitled ‚Challenges of the Other‘, I initiated an annotated bibliography on cultural contacts between Japan and the West since 1853 (pub. 1999). Several articles and a book (ed. 2001) deal with theoretical and practical aspects of translation.
3. Contemporary Thought
Japan’s dialogue with ‚the West‘ throughout the twentieth century can be traced through the literature of the period. At the same time, however, writers and scholars are important actors in the process of consolidating and propagating a concept of Japanese identity. I deal with both topics in the form of translations into German of source materials such as Suzuki Takao’s Tozasareta gengo. Nihongo no sekai (A Closed Language: The World of Japanese, pub. 1976, tr. 1990), articles, and in my Überwindung der Moderne? Japan am Ende des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (Overcoming the Modern? Japan at the end of the 20th century, ed. 1996). Other topics include Occidentalism, historical consciousness, and cultural nationalism.
4. History of Science
The development of science in Japan as part of a constant process of defining and negotiating disciplines vis-à-vis Western counterparts as an aspect of Japan’s modernization efforts is the topic of Watanabe Masao’s Nihonjin to kindai kagaku (pub. 1976) which I translated into German in 1981. Numerous essays and reviews published since 1974 deal with the history and methodology of Japanese philology and literary criticism, which is marked by a constant and complex dialogue with literary and cultural study in the West. Some of them were collected under the rubric of ‚problems of transculturality’ in part III of my Das Ende der Exotik (A Farewell to Exoticism, pub. 1988).