Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellows
in the Humanities,
Alan Charles Kors Term Associate Professor of History
and Asian American Studies
Adaptive Imperialism: Transpacific Migration and Japan's Agrarian Settler Colonialism
This project delves into the processes of adaptation where Japan endeavored to construct a modern imperialist power through migration-led agrarian colonialism à la American conquest of the frontier. Central to this story was the intersection of transpacific Japanese migration and attempts at agricultural colonization inside the formal empire, which adapted to and drew on expansionist discourses of the United States and Japan. Thinking about transpacific migration in light of Japan's imperial formation enables us to tackle another oft-neglected
instance of its adaptive colonialism. In the prewar era, the experience of U.S. Japanese immigrants as self-styled "pioneers" served as a powerful model and metaphor for Japan's settler colonialism in Korea and Manchuria. My research unveils how the examples of immigrant colonial endeavors in the U.S.-Mexican borderland were intertwined with state-sponsored agrarian developments in Japan's new "frontiers."
Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Professor of Cinema and Modern Media
Animating Analog Histories: Cinema, Photography and the Adaptive Pressure of New Media
I plan to spend the year 2011-12 consider animated digital work that adapts narratives and images from the canonical histories of analog photography and film. In recent years, discussion of the question, "What is cinema?" has been framed by a return to the critic André Bazin, whose post-war work privileges a cinema of truth, revelation, and witnessing. Bazin was for a long time discredited as naïve realism, but cinema's evolution from an analog to a primarily digital medium has provoked a return to his work. Though one critic claims that animation and composited images "stand at the antipodes" of Bazin's "cinema of discovery," I will use animated digital adaptations of analog films and photographs to consider how the ethical concerns of Bazin's old media theories could be translated without nostalgia for the present.
Associate Professor of Japanese Studies
Pillow Notes or Tedium's Leaves? Authorizing Expression in Japanese Literary Traditions
If a writer of Japanese wishes free reign to say nothing about everything, or everything about nothing (everything about everything having been written long before), he or she generally chooses between the genres of “pillow book” (makura no sôshi) or “leaves of tedium” (tsurezuregusa). Derived from two classic works with those titles, these miscellaneous essay formats permit latitude, precedent, seriousness, and play all at once. From keen observers in the tenth century royal court to bloggers on the global web today, an awareness of the gender of the original authors shapes later adaptations and may keep adapters modest. How can gender help a productive format stay unobtrusive? What are the pleasures of adopting a major model that seems minor?
Associate Professor of English, Comparative Literature,
iPhone Austen and xBox Dante:
Adaptation Becomes a Game
My project explores the degree to which computer gaming changes how we think about literary adaptation. Literary adaptation almost always presupposes the existence of some more genuine antecedent, so that a family resemblance exists between the original and its adaptation. Their relation, moreover, must be necessarily hierarchical, the adaptation standing on some fundamental level as a revision of an original. Yet, adaptations are by their nature transformative since they usually take shape in a medium or form different from the object adapted. One such new medium is the video gaming industry, whose adaptations of literary texts -- among them the iPhone's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2010) and xBox's Dante's Inferno (2010) -- abandon most of the assumptions just outlined. My project looks to the recent practice of adapting canonical texts into digital game format in order to ask two questions: (1) do such cultural objects force us to rethink adaptation?, and (2) does playing a specific subject position present a new mode of spectatorship?
Associate Professor of Sociology
From Menagerie to Conservation Center: The Adaptations of City Zoos in the United States
Over the last several decades, city zoos have transformed their missions and public identities from that of old-fashioned wildlife amusement parks into conservation centers. This shift not only represents an institutional adaptation to an emergent set of global environmental priorities, but also an organizational transformation in industry and professional norms, and a sea change in the expectations and demands of zoo audiences. We have consequently seen the gradual emergence of immersive and interactive zoo exhibition, curricular programming, and conservation efforts that help zoos speak directly to issues of biodiversity, habitat and species preservation, and ecological awareness. I propose to investigate the adaptation of American city zoos from nineteenth-century menageries into centers of nature education, scientific research, and environmental conservation.
Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature
Religion, Politics, and Sexuality in Euro-American Adaptations of a Classical Japanese Performance Genre
“Religion, Politics, and Sexuality in Euro-American Adaptations of a Classical Japanese Performance Genre" will analyze cross-cultural artistic transformation of the medieval Japanese genre of noh by three European artists, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, and the British composer Benjamin Britten. I have completed three years of research, focusing on the processes of adaptation and the divergence in religious and political dimensions in these three cases of adaptation. Through participation in the Penn Humanities Forum, I plan to forge a new theoretical framework for understanding these cases, incorporate examples of contemporary American adaptations, including those by my students, and explore the dimension of sexuality that lies close to the surface of this all-male performance genre and its transformations.