WATSON, Michael

Michael Geoffrey Watson
Michael WATSON
2003, D.Phil., University of Oxford
1979, M.A., University of Cambridge
1978, M.A., University of Manchester
1975, B.A., Hons. University of Cambridge
Japanese literature
Comparative literature
Introductory Seminar
Japanese Culture
Japanese Literature
Graduation Seminar
Graduation Project
Field Study Seminar
Personal Statement
I was born in Australia but was educated in Canada, the United States, Italy, Germany, and United Kingdom. I studied European languages and literatures at the universities of Cambridge and Manchester, and completing a doctorate on medieval Japanese literature at Oxford. I have lived in Japan since 1980, joining the Faculty of International Studies when it opened in 1986. I like foreign travel, especially in Europe and Asia, and enjoy going to the theater and listening to classical music. I have also studied noh singing (Kanze school) for more than ten years.

Research Interests
I specialize in premodern Japanese literature and its reception and translation outside of Japan. I also do research into literary theory and narrative style from the perspective of comparative literature. I have worked mainly on The Tale of the Heike and Noh theater. In my research and my teaching, I have also looked at how literary classics are transformed into other media through illustration, dramatization, and film adaptation.

Recent Activities
  • “Visions of Armoured Figures: Structure and Language in Early Warrior Plays.” Presentation at conference “Contemporary Tradition – Japanese Performance Genre Today” held in the National University of Singapore. October 13, 2016.
  • “Translations of the Man’yoshu.” Presentation in Japanese at the Nara Prefecture Complex of Man’yo Culture. November 11, 2015.
  • ” The Narrative Style of the Most Recent Translation of The Tale of Heike.” Presentation in Japanese at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of War Tales and Performed Narratives. August 25, 2015.
  • “Missing children, missing parents: filial sons and daughters in medieval Japanese narrative and noh drama.” Presentation at the conference “100 Years of Japanese studies in Hamburg.” The Department of Japanese Language and Culture, Asia-Africa-Institute, the University of Hamburg. December 12, 2014.
  • “Filial piety in noh theatre.” Paper in Japanese read at conference on filial piety in East Asia. Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Nov. 3, 2013.
  • “Narrow Escapes and Jail Breaks: Kamakura-period Warriors in Bangai Noh.” Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ). Rikkyo University, Tokyo. June 30, 2012.
  • “Larger than Life: Canonized Figures in The Tale of Heike and its Reception.” Presentation at Forum on “Canonicity and Otherness in the Non-Western Culture,” Research Institute of Korean Studies, Korea University, Seoul, September 30, 2011.
  • “Anonymous Voices and Scurrilous Graffiti: Negative Criticism in Heike Texts.” Paper read at 13th International Conference of the European Association of Japanese Studies (EAJS), Tallinn, Estonia, August 26, 2011
  • “The Possible Worlds of the Taira: Vignettes of Three Generations in Heike Variants.” Paper read at “Loveable Losers: the Taira in Action and Memory, an Interdisciplinary Conference,” Banff, Alberta, Canada, August 14, 2011.
  • “Medieval Japanese War Tales and their Critical Reception in the West, 1871–1921.” Paper read in Session 115, “Back to the Present: 140 Years of Japanese Studies,” Association for Asian Studies (AAS), Honolulu, Hawaii, March 31, 2011.
  • “The Reception of Shiji in Medieval Japanese Literature: Transformations in War Tales and Noh Drama.” Paper given in Japanese at conference on Chinese literature and thought, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China, Sept. 26, 2010.
  • “‘Light Snow’ and ‘The Dew Prince': Genre-Bending in Seventeenth-Century Noh.” The Association for Asian Studies (AAS), Philadelphia, U.S.A. March 27, 2010.
  • “The Tale of the Heike through its Translation History” and “Heeding Precedent: A Closer Look at Chinese Digressions in the War Tales.” Two papers given at the Workshop “Tales of the Heike: Variation, Canonization, and Translation and ‘Japan’s Epic.'” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Nov. 6 & 7, 2009.
  • “‘L’écho des vicissitudes humaines’ (shogyō mujō no hibiki): Early Western Reception of Buddhist Themes in Heike Monogatari.” New England Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (NEAAS), Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Oct. 3, 2009.
  • “Zeami’s theoretical writings: studies and translations in Western languages.” Paper in Japanese read at the Zeami Memorial Seminar. Kasuga Shrine, Nara, Japan. Aug. 8, 2009.
  • “‘Songs of Chu on all Sides’ (四面楚歌): the Chinese Dynastic Histories in Medieval Japan.” Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA). Sydney, Australia. July 13, 2009.
  • “Narrative Transformations, Sutra Stones, Human Sacrifice, and Divine Intervention at Tsukishima.” Twelfth Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies, Salento University, Lecce, Italy. Sept. 9, 2008.
  • Bangai yokyoku: Plays outside the repertory of currently performed noh plays.” Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC) Conference, Cornell University, New York, U.S.A., March 13, 2008.
  • Information about earlier presentations can be found here: http://www.meijigakuin.ac.jp/~watson/cv/watson-talks.html
Recent Publications
  • The Tale of Heike and the Challenges of a Poetic Translation.” Aoyama Gobun (46), Aoyama University, March 2016, pp. 160-151.
    “Blue Moons: Transformations of an English Noh Play.’ Nōgaku no genzai to mirai, ed. Yamanaka Reiko. The Nogami Memorial Noh Theatre Research Institute of Hosei University, 2015, pp. 253–265.
  • Expressions of the Invisible: A Comparative Study of Noh and Other Theatrical Traditions. Co-edited with Yamanaka Reiko. Noh Research Studies 3. Tokyo: The Nogami Memorial Noh Theatre Research Institute of Hosei University, March 2015.
  • “Inside and outside the grand lineage: a study of early translation of Japanese nō plays.” Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies, vol. 1, issue 1. Feb. 2014, pp. 28–42.
  • Like Clouds or Mists: Studies and Translations of Nō Plays of the Genpei War. Co-edited with Elizabeth Oyler. Ithaca, New York: Cornell East Asian Series, December, 2013. 539 pages.
  • “‘L’écho des vicissitudes humaines': The Tale of the Heike through its Translation History,” in La figlia occidentale di Edo: Scritti in memoria di Giuliana Stramigioli, edited by Andrea Maurizi and Teresa Ciapparoni La Rocca (Rome: FrancoAngeli, 2012), pp. 151–171.
  • “The Reception and Transformation of Shiji [史記] in Medieval Japan in War Tales and Noh Plays” [in Japanese], in Kono Kimiko and Zhang Zhejun, eds. The World of Eastern Asia and Chinese Culture: The Propagation and Re-creation in Literature and Thought (Bensei shuppan, 2012), pp. 283–303.
  • “Foreign translations of The Tale of the Heike” [in Japanese] in Ōtsu Yūichi et al., eds. Heike monogatari daijiten (Tokyo shoseki, 2010), pp. 687–693.
  • “Recent Studies on Zeami’s Artistic Treatises” [in Japanese], Nō to Kyōgen, no. 8 (2010), pp. 22–28.
  • “Limits and Possibilities of Translations of Heike monogatari” [in Japanese], Gunki katarimono kenkyūkai 45 (March 2009), pp. 3–17.
  • “Regenerating the Canon: One Hundred New Nō Plays,” in Haruo Shirane, ed., New Horizons in Japanese Literary Studies: Canon Formation, Gender, and Media (Benseisha: 2009), pp. 37–39 (English), 41–43 (Japanese).
  • “Non-canonical noh plays depicting the Genpei war in 1184″ [in Japanese], Riben wenhua yanjiu [Japanese Cultural Studies] (Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2008), pp. 479–488.
  • “Spirits of the Drowned: Sea Journeys in Bangai Noh from the Genpei War,” in Eiji Sekine, ed., Travel in Japanese Representational Culture: its Past, Present, and Future, Proceedings of the Association for Japanese Literary Studies, Vol. 8, Summer 2007, pp. 141–154.
  • “A Slave’s Wit: Early Japanese Translations of the Life of Aesop.” The Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, fourth series, vol. 20 (2007), pp. 1-22.
  • “Glossary of Characters” (pp. 171–194), “Bibliography” (pp. 195–208) in The Tales of the Heike, translated by Burton Watson, edited by Haruo Shirane (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).
  • “The Early Jesuit Press: The Amakusa Tale of the Heike and Aesop’s Fables” [in Japanese], Kokubungaku, Tokushū: “Azuchi Momoyama Renaissance” (October, 2006), pp. 62–72.
  • “Yoritomo’s shrine by the sea: the narrative function of place names in the bangai noh Tsurugaoka,” in Paul S. Atkins, Davinder L. Bhowmik, and Edward Mack, eds., Landscapes Imagined and Remembered, Proceedings of the Association for Japanese Literary Studies, vol. 6 (Seattle: University of Washington, 2005), pp. 61–75.
  • “Japanese Narrative.” David Herman, Manfred Jahn and Marie-Laure Ryan, eds, Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (London, New York: Routledge, 2005), pp. 265–266.
  • “Theories of Narrative and their Application to the Study of Heike monogatari,” in James Baxter, ed., Observing Japan from Within (Kyoto: Nichibunken kenkyūjō, 2004), pp. 91–122.
  • “A Narrative Study of the Kakuichi–bon Heike monogatari.” D.Phil thesis. Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, 2003. xii + 323 pages.
  • Other publications are listed here: http://www.meijigakuin.ac.jp/~watson/cv/biblio.html



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