Traditionally Modern: Folklore Studies, Nation, Japan

Melek Ortabasi
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 1:30pm
Communications 202

Melek Ortabasi, an alumna of UW's Comparative Literature Department ('01), will give a talk about her new book, The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio. A self-taught folk scholar and elite bureaucrat, Yanagita Kunio (1875 - 1962) promoted folk studies in Japan: so extensive was his role that he has been compared with the fabled Grimm Brothers of Germany and the great British folklorist James G. Frazer (1854 - 1941), author of The Golden Bough. An eccentric but insightful critic of Japan's rush to modernize, Yanagita offers a compelling array of rebuttals to mainstream social and political trends in his carefully crafted writings. Through a close reading of his interdisciplinary texts, which comment on a wide range of key cultural issues that characterized the first half of Japan's twentieth century, Ortabasi will discuss how his work exposes,discursively, some of the fundamental assumptions we embrace about modernity and national identity in Japan and elsewhere.

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