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In Session: Japanese Children’s Literature and/in Translation
2: "Problem" Literature for Children: Situating Anne of Green Gables in Postwar Japan
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
Joan E. Ericson
Colorado College, United States
During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the new concept of the modern child became a focus of universal education and a growing interest in what that child should read. We see a wide gamut of literature for the future citizens of the new Japan. Pedagogic literature gave a common grounding to the textbooks commissioned for the new required educational system, translations of non-Japanese children’s literature opened up boundaries, “fantastic” literature inspired a childlike imagination, and proletarian children’s literature provided real-life situations to help children of all social classes navigate social problems. During WWII, censorship restricted the kinds of literature, including literature for children, to that which supported the war effort.
In the aftermath of WWII, with the loosening of censorship, much in the vein of the earlier proletarian children’s literature in which children tried to wrestle with real-life social problems, there was a focus on “problem” literature for children (e.g., Nijuuyon no hitomi (Twenty-Four Eyes) by Tsuboi Sakai, 1952). It is within this context that many translations of children’s literature -- including Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montomery -- found a receptive audience. Translations like Muraoka Hanako’s Akage no An (Red-haired Ann, 1952) engaged the global cultural discourse on children’s literature, even as they reformulated pre-war proletarian approaches.