History, Fiction, and Japan

Key information

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Virtual Event

About this event

Prof Amy Stanley (Northwestern University)


From James Clavell's Shogun to Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha to Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai , historical fiction about Japan has proved to be incredibly popular with English-speaking audiences. These works appear to offer a glimpse into "how it really was," and even critics praise their pedagogical function in introducing readers and viewers to an unknown -- and previously unknowable -- world. Meanwhile, historians of Japan, many of whom actually do want to serve a pedagogical function, have to contend with the outsized role of fiction in shaping public perception. This talk, from a Japan historian whose work has often been miscategorized as fiction, considers the opportunities and dangers of borrowing the narrative strategies of the novel, and presents some ideas about why fiction and history are so often confused when we talk and write about Japan.

Speaker Biography

Amy Stanley is a Professor of History at Northwestern University. She is the author of Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Scribner, 2020), which has been short-listed for the National Book Critics' Circle Award in Biography and the Baillie Gifford Prize in Non-Fiction, and longlisted for the Pen/America Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award in Biography. She received her PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard in 2007, and she has held fellowships from the Japan Foundation, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


This event is free and open to public. If you would like to attend the event please register. Please register via Zoom .

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre

Contact email: centres@soas.ac.uk