Alisa Freedman (Associate Professor, Japanese Literature & Film, University of Oregon) visited Columbia on the 16th and 17th of November for two talks organized by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture. She was voted by the graduate students of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures for her exciting and diverse areas of research. The first talk dealt with the topic of Japanese women who studied in the United States between 1949 and 1966, which was an enlightening account of U.S.-Japan interaction that brought to attention an overlooked postwar history of Japanese female intellectuals, some of whom pursued graduate studies at Columbia University. The personal life stories of these women enable a reading of U.S.-Japan relations during the postwar/Cold War period as well as the role that female intellectuals played within the interplay of foreign policy, all the while living out their individual goals and aspirations. The second talk was a fascinating insight into fights (literary rather than physical) among prominent figures in the Japanese literary circles that caused a promising young writer to leave the literary field. The textual interactions which she calls “snarks” provide new ways of narrating the history of modern Japanese literature and arriving at a new understanding of that history through a study of affective relationships among writers. Over dinner and lunch following the talks, faculty members and graduate students got a chance to discuss the details of Professor Freedman’s research and enjoy her delightful company.
Written by Stephen Choi