Edward Fowler

Edward Fowler

Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: General Nonfiction

Competition: US & Canada

University of California, Irvine

After publishing a study of the fictionality of autobiographical narrative in early 20th-century Japan, I turned my attention to the politics of translation and considered how the presence of an English-language "canon" of Japanese fiction has skewed the West’s perception of the literature. My general critique notwithstanding, I remain vitally committed to the practice of translation and continue to do more of it myself, most recently two stories by Tamura Toshiko for an anthology of women’s literature from the Meiji period (1868-1912).

I maintain an abiding interest in the ethnic, social, and cultural diversity that is commonly written out of accounts of postwar Japan. Research in this area has resulted in (1) an article on minorities (focusing primarily on migrant workers) that challenges claims of Japan being a completely homogenous state; (2) a book-length study—part ethnography, part oral history, part personal account—of San’ya, Tokyo’s largest day-laborer quarter; and (3) a translation of a prize-winning memoir by a day laborer based in San’ya for fifteen years.  It has also led to an essay on modern literary representations of the descendants of outcastes in Japan commonly known today as burakumin, setting several key 20th-century fictional works in the historical context of more than half a millenium of discrimination.

Another interest is the representation of urban space, particularly that of Tokyo and Osaka, in literature, cinema, and photographs.  One manifestation of that interest is my essay on Ozu Yasujiro’s first postwar film, A Who’s Who of the Tenement (‘Nagaya shinshi-roku’), and its contestatory depiction of occupied Japan.  Another manifestation is my participation in a collaborative project, spearheaded by my colleague James Fujii, to translate several key essays by the late critic and literary theorist Maeda Ai, primarily from his celebrated book on city space in Japanese literature (Toshi Kukan No Naka No Bungaku).

Currently I am writing a memoir of my late wife, a Japenese national, with a focus on the social meaning of ‘losing’ the ‘battle’ with cancer as well as on the differing, sometimes conflicting expectations of two cultures (American and Japanese) about illness, treatment, mourning, and memorializing.


Edward Fowler is a writer residing in Irvine, California, and a professor in the School of Humanities of the University of California, Irvine.


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