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Institute of Arts and Sciences

As Honest as Literature Can Get: Autobiographical Records of Japanese Literary History

Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Literature

Reinhold Grinda

Areas of Research

 Within Japanese Language and Literature, my two main areas of research are, Modern Japanese Literature, and History of Japanese Cinema. Related to these are the contents of all my classes at Yamagata University, including Japanese Culture seminars for short-term international students and 'Showa Life as Seen in Films' and other history classes for Japanese participants.

Current Research Project

 Under the title 'Autobiographies in Japanese Literature/Japanese Literature in Autobiographies – Meiji to Showa', I am researching autobiographical writings related to literary history; a spacious area which, although such writings are important sources for any research on literature or its history, appears to be largely unexplored so far. Besides records from the writers themselves (novelists, dramatists, poets...) and from within the publishing industry (publishers, editors, journalists and critics), adjacent areas like the stage, motion pictures, music, and the arts are also taken into account; both full-length autobiographies and shorter texts found in essay collections. Since the translation of foreign literary works has been of special importance for modern Japanese culture, translators-scholars are included as well.

 Generally speaking, research will proceed in three steps: Biographical data of related books published during the past one-hundred-or-so years are assembled, as many of these as can be found are collected, and viewed within the areas their authors belong to (e.g., editors, researchers-translators of English literature, novelists, stage directors...) for what relevant information and description they contain. As a result, some completely new layers of information on all areas of Japanese modern literature will be available, virtually for the first time. Subjective though many of these writings may me: taken together, what can be expected from them is the straightest, closest-to-the-source sort of literary history imaginable. At present, the biographical database comprises more than one hundred pages, with hundreds of books already at hand. The first area to be tackled in depth will be, Japanese scholars of German literature.