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Chang Hyokchu and the Twentieth Century

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
5:00 AM
Room 1636, School of Social Work Building, 1080 S. University

John Treat, Professor of East Asian Languages and Literature, Yale University

Chang Hyokchu was born in Korea in 1905, but died as Noguchi Minoru in Japan in 1997. His life was the archetype of a modern writer under imperialism taken to an extreme, and he remains controversial in literary history. His reputation usually invokes the charged rhetoric of collaboration, but his “conversion” from Korean nationality to Japanese is the larger conundrum Chang/Noguchi’s life presents anyone who wishes to understand the imbricated histories of modern Japan and Korea. This talk will take as its focus Chang’s 1975 autobiographical novel Arashi no uta (Poem in a Storm) in order to understand his own account of how he came to naturalize from Korean subject to Japanese citizen, and refashion his life for what was his ultimate work of art: the person known as Noguchi Minoru, crafted by desire and necessity over the span of the twentieth century.

John Whittier Treat is professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University, where he teaches modern Japanese and Korean fiction and chairs LGBT Studies. He is the author of Writing Ground Zero: Japanese Literature and the Atomic Bomb (Chicago, 1995) and Great Mirrors Shattered: Japan, Orientalism and Homosexuality (Oxford, 1999). His essay “Choosing to Collaborate: Yi Kwang-su and the Moral Subject in Colonial Korea” appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies in 2011, as did his “From Lisbon to Sendai, New Haven to Fukushima: Thoughts on 3/11” in The Yale Review. He is the author of a forthcoming novel, The Rise and Fall of the Yellow House, and is at work on a history of Japanese literature from the 1870s to the present, as well as a study of Korean writers under Japanese occupation entitled Too Close to the Sun.