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Campus Now

Midsummer Issue (Jul.)

A WASEDA Miscellany

Glenn Stockwell

This theme:Openness

Mark Jewel Ph. D.
Professor
Faculty of Political Science and Economics

Q. Please provide a self-introduction.

A. My association with Japan started when my family moved to Hawaii during high school in the late 1960s. I had close Japanese-American friends and took part in a Japanese-language program. In college - also in Hawaii - I visited Japan twice as a tourist and ended up taking a degree in English literature and Japanese. When I graduated, I came to Waseda for two years as a Japanese Government Scholarship student. I applied to graduate school, spending the next 10 years moving between California and Tokyo, finally completing my dissertation on Izumi Kyoka at Stanford University in 1985. The year before, while still conducting research in Japan, I started my first full-time academic position at Musashi University in Tokyo. I was invited to move to Waseda in 1987 and have been here ever since.

Q. Why did you choose to specialize in comparative literature and are you working on any research now?

A. It is not easy to identify a single reason for deciding to study comparative literature, but if I had to choose a keyword, that word would probably be "openness." I find the idea of concentrating on a single country, region, or academic field to be very limiting, and comparative literature seemed to offer the best opportunity to make sure that a liberal education would be more truly liberating for me. Among other things, I am currently interested in the narrative patterns that can be found in Japanese and English fiction, especially with respect to the notion of the Gothic. Many non-Japanese readers regard Izumi Kyoka as a Gothic novelist, whereas in Japan that is certainly not Kyoka's reputation. The question of why non-Japanese readers rely on a concept that is historically European to discuss a Japanese writer who is widely considered to be "uniquely" Japanese suggests possible limitations on interpretation by both sides that I hope to explore further.

Q. Do you feel that there are differences or things in common between Japanese universities and universities in your own country?

A. Apart from the standard ones, I am concerned with the relative lack of interdisciplinary freedom on the part of Japanese university students. Like many American university students, I was not required to declare a major until the end of my second year. To have to choose a major field of study at the age of 18 can be quite restrictive, and American universities for the most part require their students to take a fairly broad range of courses regardless of their specialty. At the same time, it seems to me that many Japanese universities, including Waseda, are working to increasing the flexibility with which students can plan their education, by encouraging study abroad, for example. To point to a specific case here at Waseda, the establishment of the School for International Liberal Studies can be taken to show the university's commitment to a multidisciplinary, multicultural approach to education, and other schools - including my own School of Political Science and Economics - have also moved toward a more cross-disciplinary approach to their curricula.

Q. What type of things would you like your Japanese students to learn from your lectures? Also are there any things that you try to do in the classroom?

A. I want students to be curious about a topic and be willing to approach issues in a new way. I think that this attitude is important not only for classes traditionally considered academic but also for classes that are often considered to be language-based, such as composition and translation. As a result, I try to appear enthusiastic about the subject and to point out new directions into which students' curiosity can be channeled.

Go board and signature of the 9th dan professional Go player, Cho Chikun

Q. Is there anything that you are interested in right now?

A. I'm interested in popular culture, and have recently spent some time trying to familiarize myself with the history of popular music in both Japan and the West. It is a very entertaining way to try to explore the cultural problem of the universal versus the distinctive. My main hobby is the game of Go, and although I haven't had much time to play it in recent years, one of the great pleasures I expect to have after I retire is going regularly to a Go parlor.

Q. What are your hopes for the future?

A. As a researcher, to extend my range and understanding, as a teacher, to help students extend their own understanding, and as a resident of Japan, to contribute as far as I am able to transcultural values in Japan.