Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Leeds

I began my studies of Japan during the course of my BA in Japanese Studies at Oxford - but quickly realised that I still needed to spend more time in Japan. It was during the time I subsequently spent in Gunma Prefecture as a JET teacher that my interest in Japanese literature was piqued - and I did not take much persuasion to move from there to California to pursue a Ph.D. in postwar Japanese literature. I moved to Leeds in 1988 as a Lecturer in Japanese, charged with helping to establish Japanese Studies at the university - and still find myself here more than twenty years later! I became Professor of Japanese Studies in 2004. In 2011, I completed a 4-year term as President of the British Association for Japanese Studies and 5 years as Head of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Leeds. At that point, I was invited to spend a period serving as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Akita International University (AIU) in northern Japan. I ended up spending three years in Akita, before returning to Leeds in September 2014.

Arising out of my Ph.D. research on representations of Christianity in post-war Japanese literature, my early publications concentrated on the widely acclaimed author, Endo Shusaku. I subsequently worked extensively on the works of a range of other Japanese authors of the immediate post-war period and have sought to analyse the significance of these texts from both a literary and socio-historical perspective. More recently I have been considering the way in which Japanese authors have engaged with the concept of difference/alterity (Representing the Other in Modern Japanese Literature) and how they (and artists of other genres) have dealt with the legacy of the war in East Asia (Imag(in)ing the War in Japan). This has led to my current research project which focuses on the literary texts of the series of authors who were imprisoned for their left-wing political views at the outset of Pacific War hostilities, who secured their release through the act of tenkō (political apostasy) and whose subsequent literary oeuvres betray a commitment to working through this experience in their writing. I have also translated two novels by Endo Shusaku: Foreign Studies and The Girl I Left Behind.

The past three years have been devoted to my duties as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Akita International University. AIU is a unique HE institute in northern Japan where the entire curriculum is delivered through the medium of English. Despite its short history (AIU was only founded in 2004), the University was recently selected as one of only 34 universities to be supported under the ‘Top global University’ initiative funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) and, during my three year stay, I was fortunate enough to be involved in a series of projects designed to nurture graduates with a more global perspective. Since my return to Leeds, my role as Professor of Japanese Studies has been my primary preoccupation; this role combines classroom teaching with research, and I look forward to the opportunity to contribute more in these areas.

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Leeds