Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe to deliver East Asian Studies' Najita Lecture
Kenzaburo Oe, recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Literature, will return to the University of Chicago's Center for East Asian Studies to deliver this year's Tetsuo Najita Distinguished Lecture.
Oe's talk, "A Novelist Re-Reads 'Kaitokudo,'" will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 4 in the International House's Assembly Hall. Oe will speak in Japanese, with English translation provided by Norma Field, the Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Service Professor in Japanese Studies.
Oe previously visited the University of Chicago as a visiting scholar in the 1980s and the 1990s. During that time, he became acquainted with Tetsuo Najita, the Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Oe has written recently about the impact of Najita's writings on his work. In his lecture, Oe will discuss the contemporary relevance of Najita's approach to intellectual history, including Najita's Visions of Virtue in Tokugawa Japan: The Kaitokudo Merchant Academy of Osaka (1997), a landmark study of the rise of an independent school of economic and moral philosophy in 18th-century Japan.
Born in 1935 in rural Shikoku, Oe is one of modern Japan's most respected novelists and public intellectuals. He began publishing fiction while a university student, and in 1958 was awarded the Akutagawa Prize, Japan's most prestigious literary award. He since has published many celebrated novels and stories, including A Personal Matter (1964), The Silent Cry (1967), Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness (1969), The Pinch Runner Memorandum (1976) and Somersault (1999). His most recent novel, Suishi (Death by Drowning), was published in Japan to great acclaim in late 2009. His works have been translated into many languages, and in 1994 he became the second Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
In addition to his fiction, Oe has throughout his career provided a model for the engaged intellectual. He has written widely on the dangers of nuclear proliferation, on Japan's history of military aggression and in defense of Article 9, the peace clause of Japan's postwar constitution. Oe recently successfully defended himself in a highly publicized libel case brought against him by the families of two Japanese wartime military officers who claimed that Oe's 1970 book Okinawa Notes had exaggerated the role of the military in mass civilian suicides in Okinawa during the closing months of World War II, with the judges in the case declaring that his book had accurately depicted the events in question.
The University of Chicago Committee on Japanese Studies at the Center for East Asian Studies launched the Tetsuo Najita Distinguished Lecture series in 2007 to honor the legacy of Najita's contribution to the University during his long career.
Oe's lecture is free and open to the public. For additional information, please contact Sarah Arehart at the Center for East Asian Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-702-8647.
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