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February 3, 2015

SVSU to Host Japan Expert for 2 Public Talks

Bourdaghs, MichaelJapan will be the focus of two lectures sponsored by the Saginaw Valley State University Department of Modern Foreign Languages. Michael Bourdaghs, a professor of Japanese literature at the University of Chicago, will speak on the subject of Japanese literature Thursday, Feb. 12 at 2:30 p.m., and on Japanese history Friday, Feb 13 at 10 a.m. Both lectures will be held in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

In his first talk, Bourdaghs will present “Theorizing World Literature from Japan,” examining the work of Natsume Soseki.

Best remembered today as one of modern Japan's most important and influential novelists, Soseki also produced scholarly work as one of the first theorists of what we now call “world literature.” He conducted an extensive survey of the then-cutting-edge sciences of psychology and sociology in an attempt to derive a universal, fully scientific definition of literature, one that would be valid for all cultures and times. The results, published in 1907 as Soseki’s “Theory of Literature” foreshadowed many central trends in 20th century literary criticism.

On Friday, Feb. 13, Bourdaghs will present “Rethinking 'Postwar' Japanese Culture as 'Cold War' Culture: The Case of Kurosawa Akira.”

In this talk, Bourdaghs looks at what happens when writers, artists and filmmakers previously thought of as exemplars of "postwar Japanese culture" are considered as Cold War figures. He explores the figure of film director Kurosawa Akira. Through both formal and historical analysis, the lecture seeks to broaden our understanding of Kurosawa by examining how he skillfully threaded his way through the minefields of Cold War cultural politics, simultaneously invoking and denying his connection to Soviet aesthetic theories and film practices.

A professor in modern Japanese literature and East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago, Bourdaghs also is a critically acclaimed author. His most recent book, “Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop,” explores the history of Japanese popular music during the Cold War era. Bourdaghs’ earlier work, “The Dawn That Never Comes: Shimazaki Toson and Japanese Nationalism,” takes up the works of one of Japan’s most important modern poets and novelists as a test case for rethinking the complex structures of national identity.

Bourdaghs is also an active translator of Japanese literature and critical theory, including his co-translation of “Natsume Soseki, Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings,” which was awarded the 2011 Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature by the Modern Language Association.

Both lectures will be moderated by Monika Dix, SVSU assistant professor of modern foreign languages (Japanese), and are sponsored by The Distinguished Speakers Bureau of the Northeast Asia Council. They are free and open to the public. For further information contact Dix at or (989) 964-4333.