SOAS University of London

Centre for Translation Studies

“Translation and Binarism: Rethinking from the perspective of Japanese literature’s global circulation”


Date: 15 October 2020Time: 1:00 PM

Finishes: 15 October 2020Time: 2:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Virtual Webinar

Speaker: Dr. Gouranga Charan Pradhan (Nichibunken)


Japanese intellectuals in the Meiji era, in their pursuit of modern nation-building, construed Japanese cultural particularities in reaction to the professed Western universals. Conversely, a false notion of Western universality formed contemporary Western intellectuals’ views of Japanese culture. It helped to address Japanese culture, not in equal terms, but as something exotic that therefore required attention. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century, Western intellectuals (mis)appropriated Japanese literature. Yet, the Japanese toiled to export Japanese culture to the West, less so to offer Japanese cultural specificities, but as a way of seeking Western acceptance. Such transcultural circulation has not been characterized by binary oppositions, but by ambiguous positions adopted by the historical actors involved in such cultural transactions.

This presentation does a comparative study of the translation and adaptation of a medieval Japanese literary text called Hōjōki (1212) into European languages produced during the said period by both Japanese and Western scholars to explore the textual strategies adopted to suit their respective political agendas. By analyzing Marcello Muccioli’s Italian translation of Hōjōki, and the role Japanese Fascist leader Harukichi Shimoi played in its production, the presentation unravels the ambiguous positions taken by them in the process of cultural exchanges and how translation aids our understanding of this process. Then the presentation explores the further circulation of the Italian translation and cites the case of English modernist poet Basil Bunting’s poetic adaptation of Hōjōki. Through a close reading of Bunting’s poem, the presentation will show how translation exposes certain meta-universal ideas shared by geographically and temporally divided faraway cultures.


Gouranga Charan PRADHAN is a Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken). He received his Ph.D. from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies (SOKENDAI), and his MPhil and MA from the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Delhi. His research interests include world literature, translation studies and cultural exchange as manifested in the global circulation and reception of Japanese classical literary works. His recent articles include “Natsume Sōseki’s English Translation of Hōjōki: Characteristics and Strategies,” which appeared in Japan Review (32), March 2019.


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