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In some sense, every tale—and every poem—tells a story that’s never been told in the exact same way. But some tales and poems, under certain circumstances, cannot be told or are forbidden to be told for reasons that are sometimes not clear or are clearly political. Recently, it’s become more commonplace for the tales of people who belong to sexual minorities to be expressed in Japan and in Japanese, but proportionately, literature, and especially translated literature, has a long way to go to catch up with the actual situation on the ground. Given the number of books of literary fiction, and poetry to a lesser extent, published in Japan every year and given the number of queer people who live in Japan, it’s my personal opinion that there are a lot more tales that should be told forthrightly and publicly.

         This talk will not be a theoretical one—that is, one based in literary theory. The story of collecting literature that expresses queer peoples’ lives is a personal one for me in the sense that I’m queer and I’ve spent my entire adult life studying and teaching “Japan.” Those are my only qualifications. But considering the fact that I’m the only non-Japanese person in the world who has twice anthologized the poetry and prose of Japanese queer people, I want to tell this story from a personal point of view. I will talk about the circumstances under which these two projects came about, the kinds of parameters I considered when selecting literary works for both anthologies, some of the people who I met along the way, and finally the actual works selected—especially for the second anthology. I hope to tease the audience with my “summaries” so that its members feel inclined to tell others about it or to purchase it themselves when it is finally published.


This event is part of the Ito Center LGBTQ Studies Speakers Series.

Prof. Stephen D. Miller (University of Massachusetts Amherst) teaches courses on pre-modern Japanese literature, Japanese Buddhism and literature, gay/queer literature and culture in Japan, and translation. A full bio is available here

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  • Yuna Jeong

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