Trinity College Dublin and Osaka University Joint International Symposium

Japanese Studies in a global context: The art of friendship

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The reciprocal influence of Japanese and Irish literature: W. B. Yeats and the Japanese peasant literature movement in the early 20th century

Akiyo Suzuki, Kanazawa University

The aim of this presentation is to understand, through the lens of translations and their distribution, the question of how modern Japanese literature was received in Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. At the beginning of the summer of 1926, W. B. Yeats hoped to stage a contemporary Japanese drama in Dublin and searched for one suitable to perform. In the autumn of 1926, Yeats stated that, ‘Kikuchi and Pirandello are the only two dramatists in the world that I now view with deepest curiosity.’ Giving credence to his words, the Dublin Drama League, whose goal was to stage dramas by foreign playwrights at a rate of one regular performance per month, performed Pirandello’s The Pleasure of Honesty in October 1926 and Kikuchi’s The Housetop Madman that November. The dramas used in those performances were translations, either from Italian to English or from Japanese to English, and it could be said that translation made the performances possible. Kikuchi’s dramas were translated by Glenn W. Shaw in Tojuro’s Love and Four Other Plays (1925). I would like to consider the questions of why Yeats read Kikuchi’s dramas translated into English and why Yeats valued Kikuchi.

Short Biography

Akiyo Suzuki is Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature at Faculty of Letters, Kanazawa University, Japan; PhD from Osaka University, Visiting Researcher at The Victoria and Albert Museum (2011). She is the author of Ekkyo Suru Souzouryoku: Nihon Kindai Bungaku to Airurando (Cross-Border Imagination: The Reciprocal Influence of Japanese and Irish Literature) published by Osaka University Press in 2014. In her study, she analyses how Irish literature was received by modern Japanese literature in the beginning of the 20th century, when the literature of Ireland became prevalent in Japan.