posted November 4, 2009

Lecture on Translations of Japanese Epic

 Dr. Michael Watson, who is spending the fall semester at Hope College as the Meiji Gakuin Exchange Professor, will discuss the translation history of an epic Japanese narrative on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m. in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Watson will present "'L'écho des vicissitudes humaines': The Tale of the Heike through its Translation History."

"The Tale of the Heike" ("Heike monogatari") is a narrative of epic length and style that gives a highly romanticised account of Japan's first great civil war of the 1180s. There are no less than three complete translations of the work in English, with a new one in preparation.

Watson's talk will focus on the famous opening of the work, looking at how French, English, German, Russian and Chinese translators have found different ways of conveying its special rhythm, style and content. The French phrase in the title of his talk comes from the earliest known translation in a Western language of this opening, a slim volume published in Geneva in 1871, a remarkable achievement for its time and for the translator François Turrettini, who never visited the Far East.

Despite its undoubted importance in Japanese cultural history, the work, Watson notes, has resisted definitive translation.  In exploring why, he will consider some of the central questions of literary translation and the reception of foreign culture.

Watson has been a professor and lecturer at Meiji Gakuin University since 1986.  He has several publications in the fields of medieval European literature as well as Japanese studies and literature.  He has also been the president of the Asian Studies Conference Japan since June 2007.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, he holds a doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Oxford (2003); Master of Arts degrees from the University of Cambridge (1979) and ManchesterUniversity (1978); and a Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, from Cambridge University (1975).

HopeCollege and Meiji Gakuin University of Tokyo, Japan, have enjoyed a longtime relationship that allows students from each institution to study on the other's campus. The faculty exchange program began in 1994 to enhance the academic programs on each campus by drawing upon the special expertise of the exchange scholars.

The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication is located at 257 Columbia Ave., at the corner of Columbia Avenue and 10th Street.