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“On Monsters in Edo-Period Illustrated Popular Fiction: Non-Elite Edoites’ Sense of the Eerie”

Stanford University-J. F. Oberlin University Commemorative Lecture Series

SpeakerAdam Kabat, Professor of Japanese Literature, Musashi University
DateFriday, June 27, 2014
Time16:10–17:40
LanguageJapanese, without translation
PlaceMeimeikan, Room A204
J. F. Oberlin University Machida Campus

Abstract: The ordinary people of Edo were avid readers of illustrated books known generically as kusazōshi. Published in inexpensive editions, they were the comic books of their era, and they reflected the culture of the city of Edo. The stories they told were full of satire and parody, and humorous or strange monsters often appeared. Among these monsters were some who appeared in the guise of boys delivering tofu, others who looked like monks and who seemed to grow and grow as one gazed at them, others whose necks stretched to frightening lengths or whose heads came off and moved about, trickster water sprites, weird or shape-shifting cats, and boys with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads. Paradoxically, the crude appearance of these monsters won them explosive popularity among Edoites for whom sophistication was the motto, and a great many kusazōshi were published.

Adam Kabat, born and raised in New York City, came to Japan more than thirty years ago to study Japanese literature. He conceived a deep and abiding affection for these popular characters of the Edo imagination, and in this lecture he explains their charm and the changes over time in their depiction.

Profile of the lecturer: Born in New York City, Adam Kabat first came to Japan in 1979 for a full academic year of intensive language training at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies (IUC). Upon completion of the IUC program, he returned to the U.S. and graduated from Wesleyan University, then came back to Japan in 1981 as the recipient of a scholarship from the Ministry of Education. He has remained here ever since. After obtaining a master’s degree and finishing the coursework for a doctorate at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he took a teaching position at Musashi University, where he attained the rank of professor in 1997. As a researcher specializing in early modern and modern Japanese literature, he has become well known for his scholarly work on literature featuring monsters. He teaches, writes, and has published extensively in Japanese.

This lecture series was established within the framework of an Agreement of Academic Cooperation between J. F. Oberlin University and Stanford University. Speakers in the series are prominent non-Japanese scholars who studied, earlier in their careers, at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies (IUC). Founded in 1963 and administered by Stanford University on behalf of sixteen U.S. and Canadian universities, the IUC is located in the Minato Mirai district of Yokohama.

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