Trespasses: Selected Writings

Trespasses: Selected Writings

by Masao Miyoshi


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Trespasses presents key writings of the Tokyo-born literary scholar Masao Miyoshi, one of the most important postwar intellectuals to link culture with politics and a remarkable critical voice within the academy. For more than four decades, Miyoshi worked outside the mainstream, trespassing into new fields, making previously unseen connections, and upending naive assumptions. With an impeccable sense of when a topic or discussion had lost its critical momentum, he moved on to the next question, and then the next after that, taking on matters of literary form, cross-cultural relations, globalization, art and architecture, the corporatization of the university, and the threat of ecological disaster. Trespasses reveals the tremendous range of Miyoshi's thought and interests, shows how his thinking transformed over time, and highlights his recurring concerns.

This volume brings together eleven selections of Miyoshi's previously published writing, a major new essay, a critical introduction to his life and work, and an interview in which Miyoshi reflects on the trajectory of his thought and the institutional history of modern Japan studies. In the new essay, "Literary Elaborations," he provides a masterful overview of the nature of the contemporary university, closing with a call for a global environmental protection studies that would radically reconfigure academic disciplines and merge the hard sciences with the humanities and the social sciences. In the other, chronologically arranged selections, Miyoshi addresses cross-culture relations between Japan and the United States, English literary studies in Japan, and Japan studies in the U.S., as well as the organization of urban space and the integrity of art and architecture in aggressively marketed-oriented environments. Trespasses is an invaluable introduction to the work of a fearless cultural critic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822346371
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 04/07/2010
Series: Post-Contemporary Interventions Series
Pages: 380
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Masao Miyoshi (1928–2009) was the Hajime Mori Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Japanese, English, and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of several books, including Off Center: Power and Culture Relations between Japan and the United States, Accomplices of Silence: The Modern Japanese Novel, and this is not here. He is a co-editor of Learning Places: The Afterlives of Area Studies, The Cultures of Globalization, and Postmodernism and Japan, all also published by Duke University Press.

Eric Cazdyn is Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of The Flash of Capital: Film and Geopolitics in Japan, also published by Duke University Press.

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Selected Writings

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2010 Duke University Press
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ISBN: 978-0-8223-4637-1

Chapter One


"Literary Elaborations" was explicitly written for Trespasses. Bringing together research on the history of the university and contemporary ecological thought and practices, Miyoshi proposes a radical vision for the contemporary university -one that calls on those in the various disciplines to surrender their protected academic turf and prioritize a transdisciplinary approach to the current ecological situation.-ED.

We can surely destroy ourselves, and take many other species with us, but we can barely dent bacterial diversity and will surely not remove many million species of insects and mites. On geological scales, our planet will take good care of itself and let time clear the impact of any human malfeasance.


In the Western world, the university began as a guild of teachers and students in the Middle Ages, and even now the faculty help and promote each other as if in a labor union. The university's role in society, on the other hand, has been shifting-at first gradually, but since the nineteenth century rapidly, within the framework of the nation-state and industrial capitalism. I begin with an examination of today's faculty and intellectuals in higher education-in conjunction with teaching, specialization, and public utility. I will go on to question the ascendancy and perceptible dissolution of the humanities, considering especially the decline of literature including its newer subjects. In this connection, I will look back to the beginning of the university, tracing conspicuous major changes, both academic and social, and then return to the current crisis in commodified higher education and culture in general. The widely shared sense of exigency is here regarded as a convergence of crises in the deterioration of the environment both physical and social. In the vacuum remaining after the humanities debacle, therefore, environmental studies is proposed as we continue our search for hope, not for the life of the university, but for human existence itself. There will be three sections in this essay: "Today's University," "The University in History," and "Environmental Studies and Human Extinction."

Today's University

Those of us who have long inhabited academia are likely to believe that we could look out at the world at any time with nothing obstructing or distorting our sight. We are sure of our training and knowledge and simply assume that our view is accurate and comprehensive. Although we are increasingly expected to specialize in a limited field, we are still sure of our own general academic and intellectual standing-especially in literature and the humanities at large. The public outside the university reinforces our belief in ourselves, and, for various reasons, makes us feel at ease with our own sense of authority. The mainstream media, such as the New York Times or the BBC, mention and quote us, treating academics as perhaps the most reliable sources of information and opinion. Is our claim to authority legitimate?

Our acceptance of authority has several causes-each with a different consequence for society and for ourselves. To begin with, most of us received our certification from reputable institutions. Next, we are all teachers. We are supposed to know better than our students, and as we face students in the classroom, they are usually supportive rather than adversarial. They like to believe that they are getting proper education. If we like to teach, it's not just because a captive audience is a treat, but also because teaching builds our self-confidence. We feel we know a great deal, we are articulate, we are thoughtful. "Professor" is still a revered title, although it has a somewhat ridiculous ring, evoking disconnected dreamers or self-satisfied bores. As mainstays of the academic bureaucracy, we are prominent and indispensable on campuses. As we walk around our campus, we believe that it belongs to us and we are a pillar of the institution. The comfort of bureaucracy is seductive, and loyalty grows. And we seldom meet those who have not been to college; thus we live safely in a gated community. Of course we grumble about our schools all the time, but in the end we identify with them. Reviews of the books we write are more often than not courteous and complimentary. As insiders, we have to help each other. We are all of us poised to turn into "public intellectuals," and we wait for the media to seek us out whenever something breaks out in any place with the remotest connection to our fields. With increasing frequency, as a matter of fact, some of us are called on to serve clients more specific and consequential than the media-governmental agencies and private corporations. When academics enter a contractual relationship with an external institution, our authority-reinforced by the presumed independence and integrity of learning-is not necessarily compromised at once. The advice offered by academics can be genuinely mediative. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to take a prominent recent example, has served to intercede with clarity and decisiveness among many conflicting concerns. It is undeniable, however, that academic endeavors are often placed under heavy pressure by special interests. In other words, our vision of the world can be affected by a predisposition.

These pedagogic, institutional, public, and consultative roles are interlinked to promote our authority. The categories are neither cumulative nor hierarchical: teaching does not enhance a teacher's standing in the institution; campus privilege does not extend beyond the university; and media access does not always result in consultancies. And yet the classroom is the foundation of this whole enterprise, and everything else emanates from it and contributes back to it-whether research publications, public pronouncements, or specialized consultations. Of course this is true, in fact far truer than we are willing to admit. But the problem is that we don't let ourselves fully acknowledge it. Our minds have been occupied elsewhere, and the university has been deeply involved in several serious developments.

One, the idea of authority has been replaced by that of expertise. Despite the general respect the public still seems to hold for academia and also despite our own confidence in ourselves as intellectuals, we are now experts rather than authorities. This difference is hardly trivial: an authority knows not only her/his specialty but also understands its place in the scheme of learning. An expert, on the other hand, is trained only in the field of specialization, and refuses to take even a step beyond it. Two, professionalism has come to dominate academia. Scholars are now professionals to whom what's professional and what's not is crystal clear. And the disciplined experts do not transgress, discarding a vast portion of learning as amateurism. Knowledge must be certifiable and transmittable. As the authority-expert contrast is in the area of knowledge, the amateur-professional polarity is in the area of vocation. Three, careerism has grown alongside professionalism. Now that scholarship is a profession, professors feel no embarrassment in admitting success to be their goal. They aim not only at climbing up the social ladder, but also at success in specific projects ranging from the books they write to the honors and prizes they seek. Curiosity and learning are no longer crucial, success and recognition are. The avocation of teaching, once presumed modest, has been thoroughly converted to an openly competitive occupation where students, professors, and administrators alike are dead serious about grades, ranks, and finances.

To take an instance of this all-too-familiar change in higher education, teaching is now considered a contractual transmission. Before a term begins, professors unambiguously spell out the objects of transference for the benefit of students. The course syllabus is unalterably promised, and sample questions from finals are published to avoid surprises later. Bibliographies are not idiosyncratic but standardized, so nearly all professors and graduate students share identical references and citations, names and titles. Standardization, in short, functions as quality control. The teachers describe their standards for grades: they want the leased knowledge back with no dent or loss in the transaction. During the whole process, deviation is disallowed, whether from students or graduate assistants or professors. After the final exams, students are in turn expected to grade teachers for their quality of service in packaging and delivery-more important than the contents of the packages. In this contractual transaction, preparation and class work are calculated as investments and the grades as profits by both students and teachers. Institutions are ranked by the number of applicants they attract, the number of degrees they produce, their placements at graduation, and-as proof of their scholarly excellence-the number of Nobel, Booker, Pritzker, Pulitzer, MacArthur, Guggenheim, and other worthy honor and prize winners. Degrees from top institutions obviously guarantee a rise in market value and reputation. Neither teachers nor students expect much from what transpires in the classroom any more. What's important for them both is the fact of their having been there, the ownership of a share in the brand name. In this commercial enterprise, the faculty-we-are full participants. Is our outlook on the world invulnerable to these commercial relations?

Most will agree that this is an ominous aberration in educational history. Many of us have been appalled by it, and demoralization has been observed among some instructors and graduate students, though less among administrators. The prominence of specialization, professionalism, and careerism in higher education began to be talked about several decades ago, as world trade became transnational with the decline of the cold war and the intensification of capitalism. The "global" economy may not be solely responsible for the educational aberration-what caused the global economy, to begin with?-but we should reflect on its several features if we are to think seriously about "intellectuals" in higher education. For the question before us now is: Can those in the humanities-we-deal with the force of "globalization" and keep our vision of the outside world straight? What features of "globalization" have affected the humanities?

First, efficiency. The "global" economy is driven by the search for maximum efficiency (i.e., profit) and expansion (i.e., power). The cheapest labor with the fewest regulations is the goal of offshore transfer. Trainable labor is abundant everywhere. A few experts with high-tech tools can easily replace a horde of expensive workers abroad and at home. We professional experts set up such employment schemes and are thus adversarial to the workers. Manufacturers and moneylenders move their currencies, investment, technology, and production all over the world. In fact, financial speculations of all kinds have replaced manufacture as the main means of accumulating money, vastly shifting wealth to a few. We are often advisors and participants in the projects of foundations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). They claim to be nonprofit and altruistic, but often they are not. Academics circle the globe at a nearly matching pace. Our traveling is not just physical, either. We help erase geographical differences. Regardless of regional differences, we speak and teach the same language, that of efficiency. Closer at hand, an example of "efficient education" is the invention of the virtual university and the storefront university, where a handful of experts control a host of uncertified, minimally paid instructors. As we know too well, in our research universities it is graduate students who carry the burden of undergraduate education. In what way do we resist the force of "globalized" exploitation? More important, how do we know that our worldview can remain unwarped by our own complicity in exploitation?

Second, transnationalism. Players in the "global" economy disregard the boundaries and unities of the nation-state. We are less bound by the state and freer to challenge legal and political restrictions. Loosening of national affinity may be beneficial in challenging the state power and control that wreaked havoc in so many places in the last century. It should be recalled here that the humanities have evolved over several centuries in order to legitimize modern states, and, if not quite in the name of patriotism, the disciplines have been complicit in many state projects. The decline of the humanities may be, therefore, not entirely deplorable. Transnationalization, however, weakens the whole range of social imagination and sensibility that has produced modern arts and academic disciplines, which in fact contributed in the past to the promotion of public service and communal networks. The replacement of public service and social networks with self-interest and private profit has been disastrous. Social fragmentation and isolation, in addition to the widening gap between wealth and poverty, are among the obvious consequences. The "globalized" academics are among culprits here rather than victims.

Third, utilitarianism. Humanities disciplines-literature, arts, philosophy, history, and other subjects-are traditionally not supposed to be utilitarian but devoted to the general betterment of learning and understanding. They took pride, at least until the mid-twentieth century, in being useless to bourgeois society. That's why public intellectuals were historically born and bred in the humanities. That has dramatically changed: the humanities is now expected to be of use to society, or rather to those on top of society, and must legitimize its existence in neoliberal universities. Thus the professors' achievements are evaluated quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Terms like "productivity," "efficiency," "publicity," "market," and "management," once rarely heard in the academy, are now part of the basic vocabulary in "brand name" universities. Specialization and professionalism are attempts on the part of those in the humanities to justify their presence in the global economy. But that is not all. Their careerism, too, is officially encouraged in the name of efficiency. Can academic disinterestedness be maintained, and commitment to justice be kept unwavering, and more important, can "justice" actually be found, in the middle of the constant jostling for utility and success?

Will the humanities survive in the neoliberal university? One answer would be simply, no: vanishing is more likely. Disappearance in the near future is quite possible. Most likely, however, the humanities will live on for a while longer in one form or another. Even conventional studies of canonic works by a few writers may persist in a few colleges and universities. In the service of elitism and snobbery, some students may still listen to teachers and study their age-old book lists and class notes. But the formal analyses of dominant literary work that filled academia from the 1940s up to, say, 1980-here I speak mainly of literature, although it can be said of other disciplines more broadly-are scarcely being written any more, and read even less. While we were paying scant attention, a large section called literary criticism vanished from both bookstores and university press catalogues.


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Table of Contents

Foreword Fredric Jameson xi

Introduction: Trespasser: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Masao Miyoshi Eric Cazdyn xv

Literary Elaborations (2009) 1

First-Person Pronouns in Japanese Diaries (1979) 49

The Tale of Genji: Translation as Interpretation (1979) 77

Who Decides, and Who Speaks? Shutaisei and the West in Postwar Japan (1991) 83

The Invention of English Literature in Japan (1993) 111

A Borderless World? From Colonialism to Transnationalism and the Decline of the Nation-State (1993) 127

Outside Architecture (1996) 151

"Bunburying" in the Japan Field: A Reply to Jeff Humphries (1997) 159

Art without Money: documenta X (1998) 175

Japan Is Not Interesting (2000) 189

Ivory Tower in Escrow: Ex Uno Plures (2000) 205

Turn to the Planet: Literature and Diversity, Ecology and Totality (2001) 243

A Conversation with Masao Miyoshi (2000) 263

Notes 285

Selected Works Masao Miyoshi 331

Index 333

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