Featured Guest Lecture by Alan Tansman (2014)


“On Teaching Comparative Catastrophe: Japanese and Jewish Responses to War”

Monday, 3 March 2014, 4-5 p.m. (reception at 3:30 p.m.)
Glasscock Center Library, 311 Glasscock Building
Lecture is free and open to the public

tansman_rgb_smALAN TANSMAN
Professor of East Asian Languages at the University of California, Berkeley, and Editor of Representations

To many, the experience of Hiroshima marks the beginning of an epoch in which world destruction has become more than a science-fiction fantasy. And to as many, the Holocaust signifies humanity’s greatest evil, functioning like a “ubiquitous cipher for our memories of the twentieth century” (Huyssen, 18), a “moral and ideological Rorschach test” (Novick, 12). The imprint of these events, after more than half a century, is deep and indelible. How do we teach them together? Professor Tansman’s talk explores an experience in the American university classroom teaching responses by twentieth-century Japanese and Jews to catastrophe. It raises concerns about the ethics of such a comparison even as it finally deems the comparison necessary for understanding the tangle of art, emotion, psychology, and history in which responses to catastrophe are enmeshed. The Nazi murder of the Jews and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima have occupied the modern historical and literary imaginations of these two peoples, molding their cultural and political identities and generating profuse expressions of their responses.

About Alan Tansman
Alan Tansman specializes in modern Japanese literature and culture. He is the author of The Writings of Kôda Aya (Yale University Press, 1993) and The Aesthetics of Japanese Fascism (University of California Press, 2009), and is the editor of The Culture of Japanese Fascism (Duke University Press, 2009). In addition to literature, Tansman has published on topics including Japanese cultural criticism, popular culture, film, area studies, and Japanese and Jewish responses to atrocity. He has translated Japanese fiction and criticism. Tansman is currently the co-editor of the journal Representations.