Session Abstract: The formation of the pedagogical canon is a product of the vicissitudes of history and complex dynamics inherent in language, speech community, competing modes of aesthetics, and sociocultural power dynamics. However, it is equally a result of chance encounters, pragmatic exigencies, and evolving social discourses. Frameworks of valuation for literature grow out of communities and institutions that control what texts are introduced and how they are read and interpreted. The field of Japanese literary studies is no exception.
This panel explores the historical development of the classical Japanese literary canon in the West, noting not only which texts are included, but also how they are used in education. In particular, certain literary works gain canonical status because they can be portrayed as “universal” according to euro- and male-centric standards, while works that cannot adhere to that standard are devalued or ignored.
Danica Truscott demonstrates how representations of the Man’yōshū in English-language material came to be dominated by male poets, influenced by pervasive narratives in Japanese scholarship. Mariko Naitō shows how the postwar canonization of The Tale of Genji involved the use of a dichotomy distinguishing “ex-colonizer” from “ex-colonized,” where the “ex-colonizer” is deemed the universal. James Scanlon-Canegata explores the history of kayō (“folk song”) studies and notes how this field was never established in the West due to the material’s illegibility according to Western literary standards. By highlighting biases inherent in the field, we will also propose new ways of thinking how we approach these texts in our education.
Paper Presenter: Danica Truscott – University of California, Los Angeles
Paper Presenter: Mariko Naito – Meiji University
Paper Presenter: James Scanlon-Canegata – Yale University