HUMS 290, Modernities: The Modern Novel in Brazil and Japan

Meeting Time: 
M 1:30-3:20

Course Description:

This course explores the modern novel in Brazil and Japan from the late nineteenth century to present. It examines major authors and texts from their respective national canons with an eye toward both the deep resonances and incommensurabilities that comparison makes legible. Novels will be read in pairs, but in keeping with the uncanny logic of doubles and doubling, it is my expectation that we even as we identify chronological and thematic correspondences, we will also complicate, or perhaps even disrupt, tidy notions of an international Zeitgeist speaking through the texts.  Ostensibly on the periphery of the West, Japan and Brazil’s experiences of modernity situate them eccentrically, rather than squarely, in the discourse of the West. The goals of the course are likewise twofold: first, to take into account how modern novels in Brazil and Japan articulate symmetries, discontinuities, and the like with a putatively Western center; and secondly, to investigate the potential for new structures of comparison between Brazil and Japan.

Every version of Interpretations will provide an experience that is lacking in survey courses – sustained, deep engagement with one particular work, and with the interpretive world that arises around it. Courses should focus on one or several books or works of art, music or film, on their historical context, on the interpretive questions they raise, on histories of their reception and transformation, and so on. The overall goal is to give students the experience of coming to know works very deeply, to grapple with the many ways of understanding a work and with the universe of meanings that can arise from the distinctly humanistic activity of interpretation.


Led by:

Seth Jacobowitz is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures and Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at Yale University.

He is the author of the Edogawa Rampo Reader (Kurodahan Press, 2008) and Writing Technology in Meiji Japan: A Media History of Modern Japanese Literature and Visual Culture (Harvard Asia Center, 2015), which won the 2017 International Convention of Asia Scholars Book Prize in the Humanities.

He has been Simon Visiting Professor at University of Manchester, Asakawa Fellow at Waseda University in Tokyo, an invited guest lecturer at Yonsei University in Seoul, and frequent Visiting Researcher to the Center of Japanese Studies at the University of São Paulo. His first field of specialization focused on the intersection of media and literature in late nineteenth century Japan.

His current research is for a book on the prewar Japanese immigration to Brazil and the literature of Japanese overseas expansion. In addition, he is co-authoring a book on science and science fiction in prewar Japan with Professor Aaron W. Moore, Handa Chair of Japanese-Chinese Relations at the University of Edinburgh. He always welcomes undergraduate and graduate students who are independent thinkers and interested in pursuing original research.