Professor Norma Field (University of Chicago) gives the first of three lectures in a series of events on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011.
For much of the past decade, I have tried to learn about the proletarian literature movement in 1920s and 30s Japan. Drawing inspiration from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, this literature was produced in the belief that the world had to be changed, and that literature had a role to play in bringing about that change. During this period, I have also been addressing the nuclear age in the classroom, seeing nuclear weapons (including depleted uranium) and nuclear power as utterly, insidiously linked, a linkage culminating, for the moment, in Fukushima. To paraphrase the observation of a physician after the Chernobyl disaster was contained, “the crisis is over, and now the catastrophe begins”. The crisis has yet to be contained in Fukushima, but the signs of catastrophe are evident. What might the prewar revolutionary culture movement and the Fukushima catastrophe have to say to each other?
Norma Field recently retired from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her principal publications are The Splendor of Longing in theTale of Genji, In the Realm of a Dying Emperor, From My Grandmother’s Bedside, and Reading Kobayashi Takiji for the 21st Century (in Japanese). With Heather Bowen-Struyk, she is nearing completion of For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution: An Anthology of Japanese Proletarian Literature. With colleagues she maintains the atomicage news blog and has organized two symposia, “The Atomic Age: From Hiroshima to the Present” (May 2011) and “Atomic Age II: Fukushima” (May 2012).
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