Haruo Shirane

Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Chair of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Japanese literature, visual culture, and cultural history, with particular focus on the interaction between popular and elite cultures

Professor Shirane has written widely on Heian, medieval and Edo prose fiction, poetry, and visual culture, as well as on the modern reception of literary classics and the production of the “past.” This year he published Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts (Columbia University Press, 2012), which examines the huge impact that the culture of the four seasons have had on Japanese literature, arts, gardens, and architecture. The following is a short description:

Elegant representations of nature, explicitly the four seasons, fill a wide range of Japanese genres and media—from poetry and screen painting to tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and annual observances. Haruo Shirane shows, for the first time, how, when, and why this occurred and explicates the richly encoded social, religious, and political meanings these representations embodied. Refuting the long held belief that this phenomenon reflects agrarian origins, this book demonstrates how elegant representations of the four seasons first emerged in an urban environment among nobility in the eighth century. Shirane reveals how this kind of “secondary nature,” which flourished in Japan’s urban architecture and gardens, frequently fostered a sense of harmony with the natural world—just at the point at which it was receding. Eventually, alternative representations of nature derived from farm villages and elsewhere began to intersect with these elegant representations in the capital, creating a complex web of competing associations.

Professor Shirane has also edited a book on Japanese poetry called Waka Opening Up to the World: Language, Community, and Gender (Benseisha, 2012), a bilingual (Japanese-English) edition that brings together the best scholarship in both Japanese and English on the function and impact of Japan’s most influential poetic genre.

Professor Shirane is also engaged in bringing new approaches to the study of Japanese literary culture. This has resulted in Japanese Literature and Literary Theory (Nihon bungaku kara no hihyō riron, Kasama shoin, 2009), edited with Fujii Sadakazu and Matsui Kenji; and New Horizons in Japanese Literary Studies (Bensei Publishing, 2009), both of which explore new issues and methodologies in the study of print and literary culture.

Professor Shirane is also the editor of Food in Japanese Literature (Shibundō, 2008); Overseas Studies on The Tale of Genji(Ōfū, 2008); and Envisioning The Taleof Genji: Media, Gender, and Cultural Production (Columbia University Press,2008). The latter two books analyze theimpact of The Tale of Genji on Japanesecultural history in multiple genres andhistorical periods.He has translated and edited a numberof volumes on Japanese literature. Theseinclude The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales (Columbia UniversityPress, 2010), a collection of setsuwa(anecdotal literature); Classical Japanese Literature, An Anthology: Beginnings to 1600 (Columbia University Press,2006); Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600–1900 (ColumbiaUniversity Press, 2002; abridged ed.,2008); and The Tales of the Heike (Columbia University Press, 2006, paperback2008).

Professor Shirane is also deeply involved with the history of Japanese language and pedagogical needs and has written the Classical Japanese Reader and Essential Dictionary (2007) and Classical Japanese: A Grammar (Columbia University Press,2005). Previous books include Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashō(Stanford UniversityPress, 1998) and The Bridge of Dreams: A Poetics of TheTale of Genji (StanfordUniversity Press, 1987). He also is coeditorwith Tomi Suzuki of Inventing the Classics: Modernity, National Identity, and Japanese Literature (Stanford UniversityPress, 2001).

Professor Shirane received his BA from Columbia College (1974) and his PhDfrom Columbia University (1983). Heis the recipient of Fulbright, JapanFoundation, SSRC, and NEH grants and hasbeen awarded the Kadokawa GenyoshiPrize, Ishida Hakyō Prize, and, mostrecently, the Ueno Satsuki Memorialprize (2010) for outstanding research onJapanese culture.

E-mail: hs14@columbia.edu