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Biodiversity Blog


Entomological Poetics: Reading for Insects in Japanese Literature and Culture

 "The Divine Insect" (12th century). Nara National Museum.


We're happy to share info for this fascinating talk: "Entomological Poetics: Reading for Insects in Japanese Literature and Culture" by Professor Mary A. Knighton. It is hosted by the Center for East Asian Studies in the Department of Asian Studies (College of Liberal Arts). Description is below:

Europe has Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915) and Carlos Collodi’s Talking Cricket (1883), while the U.S. boasts giant bugs in such horror movies as Them! (1954) and The Fly (1958), but insects appear to be as widespread and diverse in Japanese literature and culture as they exist in the animal kingdom itself. From classical poetry and haiku to modern and contemporary literature, manga, and anime, the role that insects play is persistent, not occasional, and be they cicadas, crickets, beetles or butterflies, their beauty and beast aspects are best considered in tandem. In this talk, Professor Knighton discusses insects in literature and film from different points in Japan’s history and as linguistic and psychological phenomena, in order to show how insect stories have thrived via local and domestic routes of transmission alongside transnational exchanges of knowledge, technology, and art. We will certainly aim to look more closely at what makes Japan’s insect fictions so compelling – for instance, the way insect fictions shed light on human aspiration and failure in the arts, or mark human ties and obsessions with the natural environment, social networks, gender, sexuality, and national identity. But just as importantly, this talk engages specific examples of the way that science and aesthetics intersect to build densely imaginative worlds often grounded in the everyday appreciation of real insects in Japan. Our final goal will be to generate complex answers from the rather simple question of just what it is that insect stories can say that other stories cannot.

Monday, September 12, 2022

3:00 - 4:30 p.m.

WCH 4.112


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