Online | Translation | Fiction | Reading Group

4 Weeks of Reading as Writers: Contemporary Japanese Literature Beyond Murakami

In this eight-week, four-session class, participants will read and discuss a selection of contemporary Japanese fiction (in English translation), focusing specifically on works by women writers that delve into the nature of gender, labor, and alienation under late capitalism.

Books will include:

Oyamada Hiroko, The Factory. Trans. David Boyd

Tsumura Kikuko, There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job. Trans. Polly Barton

Murata Sayaka, Convenience Store Woman. Trans. Ginny Tapley Takemori

Kawakami Mieko, Breasts and Eggs. Sam Bett and David Boyd

These works grapple with a range of social issues specific to contemporary Japan, such as: the afterlives of the Japanese empire, post-90s economic recession, a declining birth rate, as well as xenophobia and the rise of right-wing nationalism. At the same time, they help us think about the intersections of gender and labor under late capitalism writ large. We will discuss each book's social and historical context in depth, while also analyzing each one's particular craft strategies and its effects.

From the claustrophobic hostess culture of Kawakami's Breasts and Eggs, to the mind-numbing repetition of Oyamada's The Factory, from the bizarre nature of temp work in Tsumura's There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job, to the total fusion of work and personhood in Murata's Convenience Store Woman, these authors expose the bizarre and surreal states to which Japan's contemporary work culture gives rise. They also demonstrate how women fight to retain their humanity under dehumanizing working conditions.

We will spend each class period discussing one book. Our discussions will be followed by short craft exercises that students will be invited to revise on their own, building towards a longer project that participants can then share with the instructor for feedback during an optional one-on-one conference after the final class.

Participants are expected to have read The Factory before the first session.

Note: Any ‘Reading...as Writers’ student can opt in to a 45-minute consultation with the instructor for an additional fee of $105, in which you receive one-on-one feedback on any writing that emerged from the course, including ideas for revision and specific line edits. Please email [email protected] after your final group meeting to arrange a consultation.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Greater familiarity with the landscape of contemporary Japanese literature

- Examinations of four different authors’ writing techniques and what they can teach us about our own writing

- Illuminating discussions of the relationship between craft choices and labor conditions

- A supportive environment for exploring new literary possibilities, particularly for those who wish to write about issues of work, gender, and alienation

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

- Participants must have access to the four assigned books, either as physical copies or e-books

- Participants are expected to have read The Factory before the first session begins

- Each session will focus on one book; participants are expected to have read the book before the session begins, and have chosen at least two passages from the work which they can bring up during discussion

- Students will have the option of trying out the writing exercises offered at the end of each session, but are not required to share any original writing for the class.  

COURSE SKELETON:

We will spend each class period discussing one book, followed by short craft exercises that students will be invited to revise on their own, building towards a longer writer project that participants can then share with the instructor for feedback during an optional one-on-one conference after the final class.

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda is is a writer, teacher and translator from Japanese. She received her BA in English from Wesleyan University and her PhD in Japanese Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Born in Tokyo, raised in Texas, she currently divides her time between Iowa City and Boston, Massachusetts. 

Testimonials

"The translation workshop that Lisa organized was a really special space. It felt so welcoming and ready to meet people where they were in their translation journeys, regardless of where that was. I particularly loved that we got to spend a large chunk of time in breakout rooms getting to know other participants and hear their perspectives. Also, I really appreciate that she sent out so many resources and ways for people to stay connected. This was such a great experience, and it really stood in contrast to other workshops without a focus on heritage translators and translators of color."

former student

"I loved working on the translations as a group, learning from other translators' solutions, being in a welcoming environment, and learning that there are other people in the world that perceive the world in a way that is similar to me."

former student