Trinity College Dublin and Osaka University Joint International Symposium

Japanese Studies in a global context: The art of friendship

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Kwaidan: Lafcadio Hearn and the Japanese ghost story

Till Weingärtner, University College Cork

Irishman Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) is one of the most formidable historical figures when looking at Irish-Japanese relations. The influence of his writings on the European image of Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries cannot be overstated. At the same time, academic engagement with Lafcadio Hearn over the last decades has also shown flaws and problems connected to his writings on Japan.

This talk aims to discuss one of Hearn’s most famous writings in detail: Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, his collection of Japanese ghost stories which were written shortly before his death. The talk will deal with the genesis and the impact on the text, both in Japan and the West, aiming at understanding both Hearn’s achievements as a skilful writer and observer, but also understanding Hearn’s image as a “problematic interpreter” of Japan.

Short Biography

Dr. Till Weingärtner is a lecturer in Asian Studies and co-director of the Irish Institute of Japanese Studies at University College Cork. He received his PhD from Freie Universität Berlin, writing on contemporary Japanese comedy after experience the life of a comedian in Osaka himself. His research continues to focus on Japanese culture, especially performance, film and popular culture. Apart from his work in the academic world, he is actively involved in the field of cultural exchange, for example by organising rōkyoku and rakugo performances with Japanese artists in Germany and Ireland. He is the author of two books in German and has received several awards in his home country, both for his research and for his activities fostering intercultural relations between Japan and Europe.