Japanese and Japanese American Autobiography (JPNT 178)

JPNT 178 – Japanese and Japanese American Autobiography

Autobiography. We all know what it means or think we know what it means, but, when we take a closer and more careful look at it, we find that the definition slips and slides about and may in fact be loaded with hidden assumptions about literature, self/ves, speaking subjects, whom we consider worthy to speak.

What then does autobiography really “mean”? Is a definition possible–or necessary? Is it “bad” if it shifts and moves? What are the stakes involved in labeling a work an autobiography? What role does it and can it play in the arenas of Asia America and literatures by people of color? Can non-western European traditions write autobiographies as the term now stands? More questions than answers you say–but isn’t it the way things always are?

Sample Reading List

1. Andrew Garrod & Robert Kilkenny, Balancing Two Worlds
2. Masuda Sayo, Autobiography of a Geisha
3. Nakazawa Keiji, Barefoot Gen
4. Michitsuna no haha, (Sonja Arntzen, trans.), The Kagero Diary
5. Donald Richie, Memoirs of the Warrior Kumagai
6. Chandra Prasad, Mixed
7. Summerhawk, Barbara, et. Al, Queer Japan
8. Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Blu’s Hanging
9. Karen Yamashita, Tropic of Orange
10. Other readings on Sakai.

There will be no midterm or final. The final paper/project will be in lieu of a final. The final project can be an autobiography/autobiographical project or a traditional paper. In the past these have constituted short stories and poems; performance pieces (a short play in several acts, a trumpet solo, musical composition, dance); as well as art objects, a fashion show, a collaborative photo album among others. Please begin thinking about what you would like to do and come and see me early in the semester.