Critical Inquiry ID: Mirroring Japan/ese America

ID 1 – Mirroring Japan/ese America

First Year Critical Inquiry Writing Seminar

In this seminar for first year students, we explore what Japan and/or Japanese America looks and feels like to a series of writers, dramatists, manga and anime writers and artists. Students may be surprised by what they encounter; they may disagree with what they reveal; or they may resonate with what the texts say. All this is very, very good and I count on students sharing their thoughts and feelings about these works, always remember that there are no “dumb” questions or “silly” insights: all are very valuable and of interest–and I am delighted to be reading/viewing some fun material together, getting to know each other through dialogue and discussion along the way.

At the outset I should point out that the course does not intend to be a comprehensive introduction to either Japan or Japanese America. In fact some of our texts challenge us to think about what we mean by these designations. This “challenge” is not designed necessarily to make us abandon these terms but to make us more thoughtful about how we use them and what we use them for. The same holds true for “literature”. Many of the works/texts we examine are not what some would normally include as literature–in other words, is literature only novels, short stories, drama, and poetry? What do we do about texts traditionally categorized as “low” or popular culture? What about those (manga and anime) that are often viewed as “kid stuff”? These and other questions abound and I look forward to discussing them with all.

So I ask, have you ever read a work by Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, or our own Pomona graduate Garrett Hongo?  Or has Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura (I can’t decide which to read yet!!) “captured” your imagination?  What about The Grave of the Fireflies?  What do these texts as well as the traditional forms, such as novels and plays, have to say about gender, sexuality, and orientalism?  Do these popular forms treat these issues in the same manner or not?  Much to read, much to discuss, much to think about.