A new look at Japanese culture

Portrayal of the body is focus of Mellon Sawyer Seminar series beginning Sept. 24

“Japan Embodied: New Approaches to Japanese Studies,” is a four-semester Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series that examines the way the body has been discussed, experienced and imagined in Japanese culture. The first seminar begins at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, in Room 18, Busch Hall.

The seminars, which are free and open to the public, will continue with events each semester through spring 2012.

The seminar series is supported by a $150,000 Mellon Foundation Grant awarded to the university’s Japan studies faculty in East Asian Studies in Arts & Sciences through a highly competitive selection process.

Featured speakers for the first seminar, who will discuss how the body has been portrayed over time in Japanese culture, are Shigehisa Kuriyama, the Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History at Harvard University, and William Johnston, professor of Japanese history at Wesleyan University.

Any member of the Washington University community interested in the study of the body is invited to participate in some or all of the scheduled seminars. Advance readings are available and audience participation is encouraged.

For more information on seminar dates, topics and the required readings, visit the East Asian Studies website, eastasian.artsci.wustl.edu/mellon, or contact Krystél Mowery at (314) 935-4448 or e-mail eas@artsci.wustl.edu.

In its bid to bring the prestigious John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Studies of Culture to Washington University, faculty organizers promoted the university’s existing strengths in Asian studies, as well as strong interdisciplinary connections to faculty with related experience in the schools of Art and Law, other areas of Arts & Sciences, and other local institutions.

In particular, the grant proposal noted the university’s wealth of scholars with expertise in Western notions of the body in the areas of literature, psychology, anthropology and art history.

The proposal highlighted plans for the participation of faculty in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, many of whom have expertise in studies of the body.

Rebecca Copeland, PhD, professor of modern Japanese literature in Arts & Sciences, is coordinating the seminar series and related academic programs with assistance from Marvin Marcus, PhD, associate professor of modern Japanese literature. Other members of the Sawyer Seminar planning committee are Lori Watt, PhD, assistant professor of modern Japanese history; Jamie Newhard, PhD, assistant professor of premodern Japanese literature; and Virginia Marcus, senior lecturer in Japanese language.

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.

The seminars, named in honor of the foundation’s long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, have brought together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.