Melek Ortabasi, "The Undiscovered Country" (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014)


Melek Ortabasi's new book explores the work of Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), a writer, folk scholar, "eccentric, dominating crackpot," "brilliant, versatile iconoclast" and much more. The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation, and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) expands how we understand and evaluate his work by contextualizing it in terms of translation studies, simultaneously informing how we think about (and with) translation. Translation was a method of resistance for Yanagita, offering a way to work against a "homogenizing national narrative" in the first half of Japan's twentieth century. Ortabasi considers Yanagita's work as a poet, a travel writer, a folk studies scholar, a linguist, and a pedagogue: in every case, whether literally or figuratively, Yanagita was also acting as a translator. The Undiscovered Country takes us into some amazing texts that include a collection of oral tales from a rural castle town in northern Japan, travelogues, methodological introductions to academic fields, works on regional dialectical names for snails (snails!), language-maps, glossaries, children's literature (including a history of fire!), a television show, and much more. It's a fascinating study for readers interested in both modern Japan and translation studies alike. Enjoy!

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