Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Symposium Report: Raymond Williams, Wales and Japan

The symposium on Raymond Williams in Transit: Wales – Japan took place on Friday 16th October, and proved to be a very stimulating event. Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Swansea University, Noel Thompson, opened proceedings by evoking the cultural tradition within Marxist thought, with its roots in Marx's 1844 manuscripts and its most influential formulations appearing in the works of Ruskin and Morris, and later, Raymond Williams himself. Chris Williams offered a fascinating comparative account of Welsh and Japanese coalfield societies, with the main areas of difference being the relative absence of independent trade unionism in Japan, and the nature of post-industrial depopulation in the two nations. M. Wynn Thomas, who chaired the morning’s proceedings, suggested during the lively ensuing discussion that cultural factors seemed to be the determining elements in the form taken by industrialisation in different contexts. Shintaro Kono’s paper centred on an illuminating comparison between Raymond Williams and the Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume. Drawing on Williams’s theorisation of the relationship between the country and the city, Shintaro explored the impact of modernity on Japan, and the forms of cultural inferiority and resistance that the ‘Westernising’ process of modernity had on Japanese society. Williams’s notion of the ‘double vision’ that resulted from the movement from the country to the city offered a highly productive model for comparative literary study.

Takashi Onuki’s paper on the process of translating Raymond Williams, concentred refreshingly on Williams’s writings on drama, particularly his early Drama in Performance, and minor masterpiece, Modern Tragedy. Takashi explored the multiple meanings of the word ‘action’ in Japanese, and used that exploration as a basis for discussing the many uses of ‘action’ in Williams’s own criticism, while drawing for comparison on the works of Brecht and Hannah Arendt. Gwenno Ffrancon explored the role of Wales in the imaging of industrial society in contemporary Japanese animator Miayzaki’s film ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’. Miayzaki’s visit to Wales during the 1984-5 miner’s strike influenced his own political orientation, and was used by Gwenno as a basis for comparing the animation industries in Wales and Japan.

It was a delight and privilege to have welcomed Shintaro Kono and Takashi Onuki to Swansea, and it is confidently hoped that further collaborations will develop from this event.
Shintaro Kono's account of the visit in Japanese (with pictures) can be accessed here:

1 comment:

sarah said...

I completely forgot that this was on last week... I blame teaching!