Japanese Literature and Cultural Studies
EALAC has long been known for its leadership in Japanese literature and culture, beginning with Donald Keene (university professor emeritus), Ivan Morris, and then Edward Seidensticker, who pioneered the field; today it continues to produce many leading scholars of Japanese literature and visual culture. The program is outstanding both in modern and in premodern studies, enabling the students to receive extensive training both linguistically and across different periods and disciplines. The program is well known for teaching various levels and styles, from advanced modern Japanese to classical Japanese, kanbun, and calligraphic script, all of which is supplemented by strong programs in Chinese and Korean. The program promotes critical methodologies and interdisciplinary or comparative studies, combining, for example, literature with film, visual culture, gender studies, cultural history, and religion, often working across one or more countries in Asia.
A major characteristic of the program is the interface of the studies of literature, cultural history, and media. Haruo Shirane is an expert in classical, medieval and early modern Japanese literature and cultural history, with special interest in poetry and prose fiction, intermedial relations (oral storytelling, painting/print culture, dance, and theater in relationship to literary texts), and the role of popular culture in canon formation. David Lurie, teaching both literature and history, is a leading authority in ancient Japanese history and literature, script and writing systems, linguistic thought, and Japanese myths. In premodern studies, they are aided by Wei Shang (premodern Chinese literature), Michael Como, Bernard Faure, and Max Moerman (early and medieval Japanese religion), and Matthew McKelway (medieval and Edo painting).
Paul Anderer is an authority on 20th century Japanese literature, particularly fiction, literary criticism, and film. Tomi Suzuki is an expert in 19th and 20th century fiction, literary and cultural criticism, and intellectual history. They are complemented by Carol Gluck, Greg Pflugfelder, and Paul Kreitman (19th and 20th c. Japanese history), Jonathan Reynolds (modern Japanese visual culture and architecture), and Marilyn Ivy (anthropology), not to mention those in other modern East Asian literatures and cultural studies, particularly Theodore Hughes (modern Korean literature) and Lydia Liu (modern Chinese and literature).
EALAC created almost the entire first generation of Japanese literature scholars after World War II. The Japanese literature and visual culture program at Columbia has continued its leadership role, training and placing, in just the last two decades, more than forty PhDs graduates in institutions of higher learning throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, more than any other program by far. Graduates of the program occupy positions of leadership both in the field and at many of the leading universities such as UCLA, Stanford, Columbia, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, Washington University at St. Louis, Boston University, University of British Columbia, Oxford, SOAS, and University of Hong Kong, among others.
The Japanese literature and cultural studies program also has a MA double degree program with Waseda University which allows PhD students to study and train in Japan for a year, earning a MA as they work toward a PhD at Columbia. Visiting scholars from various Japanese universities also offer workshops and courses on a regular basis.
The Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, affiliated with the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, regularly sponsors lectures, workshops, performances, and other events that bring prominent scholars, artists, musicians, and other cultural figures to campus from elsewhere in North America, Europe, Japan, and Asia.
With the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University has one of the strongest library collections in the world for Japanese literature and culture. It has particularly extensive holdings of books and journals in premodern and modern literature, history, and religion. Its Makino Mamoru Collection on the History of East Asian Film is an important resource for scholarship not only on cinema and popular culture, but also on many other aspects of modern Japanese history.
Our location in New York City also creates close connections to the Japan Society, Asia Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and New York Public Library, as well as providing exposure to a wide variety of Japan-related film screenings, gallery shows, talks by writers, and live performances by both traditional and contemporary artists throughout the year.
EALAC Japanese Literature and Cultural Studies – List of Alumni