3550 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

This talk focuses on plant life in the writing of Japanese modernist author and film critic Osaki Midori (1896-1971), whose experimental works feature a new approach to plants somewhere in between science and poetry, or what famed literary critic Hanada Kiyoteru called "plants of the 20th century." Employing methodologies from the emerging field of critical plant studies and arguing for the importance of taking plants seriously in our reading of literature, Pitt demonstrates how Osaki's figuration of moss in her best-known work Wandering in the Realm of the Seventh Sense (1931) ties the novella to Japan's colonial nexus while simultaneously attempting to resist the ideology of social Darwinism that was used to help justify Japan's imperial project. Through a creative engagement with evolutionary theory, Osaki wrote of moss as a distant ancestor of humans, crafting a utopian yet ultimately ambivalent vision of evolution that was not hierarchical or unidirectional. 

 

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Bio

Jon L Pitt is Assistant Professor of Japanese Environmental Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He situates his work at the intersection of Japanese literary and media studies and critical plant studies. He is the translator of poet Hiromi Ito's Tree Spirits Grass Spirits (Nightboat Books, 2013). His first monograph is forthcoming from Cornell University Press. Selected publications include "Documenting Wordless Testimony: Botanical Witnesses of Hiroshima and Chernobyl" in the journal Angelaki, "Becoming Marimo: The Curious Case of a Charismatic Algae and Imagined Indigeneity" in the collected volume Being Algae: Transformations in Water, Plants (Brill, 2024), and "Of Miracles and Mourning: Reading COVID-19 Environmentally in Uchidate Makiko and Ito Seiko" in The Coronavirus Pandemic in Japanese Literature and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2023).

 

Discussant Natania Meeker is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at USC. Her book-length projects include Voluptuous Philosophy, on Lucretius and eighteenth-century materialisms, Radical Botany (co-authored with Antónia Szabari), on plantlife and speculative fiction, and a new manuscript prospectively entitled Illusion Without Error, on femininity and theories of matter in the Enlightenment. She recently coedited an issue of L'Esprit créateur on libertine botany and is at work on a series of articles on biopolitics and plant reproduction in the long history of feminist thought.

 

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature and is part of the Ito Center's Environmental Humanities Speaker Series

Event Details

  • Kai Kubota-Enright

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