Dismembered and Still Kicking: Kokoro in the High School Textbook

Ken K. Ito – Professor, Japanese Language, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 – 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Room 211, Hall of Graduate Studies

320 York Street

New HavenCT 06511

The Council is pleased to present the Eighteenth Annual John W. Hall Lecture in Japanese Studies.

Its regular teaching in Japanese high schools insures Kokoro’s place in the canon. But what high school students read is not the entire novel by Natsume Sōseki, but an extract consisting of 1/12th to 1/8th of the work, a situation that one major critic has called “a kind of sickness.” What does it mean that a large number of readers encounter only a portion of a prominent literary work? What kinds of readings are enabled or disabled in the process of abridgement and anthologization? This talk examines the high school textbook as a material form in order to gauge its role in the transtemporal movement of a canonical novel. By considering Kokoro as a “non-human actor,” it argues for the surprising health of the dismembered text.

The John W. Hall Lecture Series in Japanese Studies was established with generous support from Mrs. Robin Hall in memory of her husband.  Considered one of this past century’s finest scholars of the history of Japan, John Whitney Hall was born in Tokyo in 1916 and developed an interest in Japanese language, culture, and history at an early age.  After receiving his Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Harvard, Hall began his academic career at the University of Michigan in 1949 and came to Yale in 1961 as A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History, a position he held until his retirement in 1983.

Professor Hall specialized in the Ashikaga through Late Tokugawa periods, and throughout his career he wrote or edited some of the most important and influential volumes on Japanese history.  He contributed to the study of Japan through not only his writing, but also through service as chair of several local and national committees, including the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, the Association for Asian Studies, and the American Council of Learned Societies-Social Science Research Council (ACLS-SSRC) Joint Committee on Japanese Studies.

The Council on East Asian Studies hopes this lecture series will enable young and old scholars alike to remember John Whitney Hall’s work and grand contributions to the study of Japan.