William H. Bridges, IV
- Arthur Satz Professor of the Humanities
- Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Cultures
PhD, East Asian Studies, Princeton University, 2012
407 Lattimore Hall
Office Hours: By appointment
My research and teaching—which has been recognized by the Fulbright Program, the Japan Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities—is underpinned by a fairly straightforward question: what is the relationship between storytelling and identity, or: in what way is fiction an object of the humanities—one that tells us who we were, who we are, and who we might become? My intellectual home is at the intersection of modern Japanese literature, African American literature, and comparative literature. I am particularly interested in studies of the “Black Pacific,” which consider the ebb and flow of black people, thought, and culture throughout the Pacific.
My first monograph is Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature(University of Michigan Press, 2020). My previous research—which includes an article on Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo’s writing of Afro-Japanese existentialism, an essay on the reception history of Little Black Sambo in Japan, and an co-edited volume entitled Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and Afro-Japanese Cultural Exchange—has investigated the place of fiction in the construction of racial thinking in postwar and contemporary Japan.
I also have a keen interest in the way the humanities expand our imaginative capacity and facilitate the re-imagining of just futures. I have written several pieces in response to the putative crisis in the humanities, including an entry for the postwar Japanese fiction volume of the MLA Options for Teaching series, the central article for a forum issue of the History of Humanities journal entitled “A Brief History of the Inhumanities,” and a piece for ASAP Journal entitled ““Six Ways to Stand with the Work of Art in the Age of Instagrammatical Reproduction: Tanaka Tatsuya and the Beautiful Plentitude of the Reimagination.” I am a founding editor of the Journal of Social and Cultural Possibilities, which encourages scholarly explorations of the possible.
I am currently working on two book projects. The first is The Ethics of Reparations in Six Deaths. Six Deaths considers the ethics of repair and reparations in cases ranging from the Tulsa massacre to the internment of Japanese Americans. The second project is The Black Pacific: A Poetic History. The Black Pacific considers the development of modern Japanese literature not as the body of fiction produced by an island nation, but as a body of fiction developed on a central port in a transpacific dialogue on racial existence. The Black Pacific asks: how might the urge to explore the Pacific and the desire to write Japanese or black poetry be one in the same?
I should also note that my scholarship is informed by my creative writing. My creative nonfiction, which has been named a Notable Essay of 2020 by the Best American Essays series, tries to articulate the pleasures and pains of black life.
Anyone interested in contributing to the Journal of Social and Cultural Possibilities can find more information on the journal web page.
Anyone interested in contacting me in my capacity as a Distinguished Speaker with the Northeast Asia Council Distinguished Speakers Bureau can find more information at the Association for Asian Studies website.
Selected Video Presentations
Asian Studies and Black Lives Matter
- Modern Japanese language, literature, and culture
- Race and ethnicity in modern Japanese literature and culture
- Contemporary Japanese popular culture, especially anime
- 20th-century African American literature
- Literary theory, especially African American literary theory and the theory of the novel
- Translation (theory and practice)
- Rhetoric and composition
- Digital Humanities
Courses Offered (subject to change)
- CLT 200: When War Should End
- CLT 389: MLC Research Seminar
- JPN 229: Japanese Calligraphy and Graphology
- JPN 230: Poetry and Japanese Calligraphy
- JPN 245: Japan and the Future*
- JPN 254: Rises and Falls of Modern Japanese Literature*
- JPN 258: Japanese Science Fiction in Global Perspective*
- JPN 275: Hip Hop Japan
- JPN 293: Life and Anime*
- Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar, Japanese Literature (University of Michigan Press, 2020).
- “Six Ways to Stand with the Work of Art in the Age of Instagrammatical Reproduction: Tanaka Tatsuya and the Beautiful Plentitude of the Reimagination”, ASAP Journal, Volume 5, Issue 3 (2020)
- "A Brief History of the Inhumanities" Special forum issue: History of the InhumanitiesHistory of Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2019).
- "The Past Tense and the Future Perfect: The Postmodern Play of Watanabe Shin’ichirō and the Coming Community" The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 51, Issue 3 (2018).
- "In the Beginning: Blackness and the 1960s Creative Nonfiction of Ōe Kenzaburō", positions:asia critique, Volume 25, Issue 2 (2017).
- “Between Narratophilia and Aphasia: Silent Desire and the Dialogic Narration of Self in Ishikawa Jun’s, ‘The Legend of Gold’ East Asia Forum (Fall 2010).
- Who Is the Asianist? The Politics of Representation in Asian Studies, Co-edited with Nitasha Sharma and Marvin Sterling Columbia University Press (2022)
- Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production, co-edited with Cornyetz, Nina, Lexington Books, New Studies in Modern Japan (2015).
Guest Edited Journal Issues
- “The Futurist Turn” College Literature, Volume 48, Issue 3 (2021), Introduction: “Against Afuturistic Reading”.
Contributions to Edited Volumes
- “The Tragedy before the Blood Commons: Araki Tetsurō, the Crisis in the Humanity, and Animated Education”, Teaching Postwar Japanese Fiction, ed. Bates, Alex, MLA Options for Teaching Series (2022)
- “The Sun Never Sets on Little Black Sambo: The Cultural Hermeneutics of Little Black Sambo—A Transoceanic Approach”, The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire, eds., Hanscomb, Chris and Washburn, Dennis, University of Hawaii Press (2016).
- Introduction” Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production, co-edited with Cornyetz, Nina Lexington Books, New Studies in Modern Japan (2015).
- “In the Beginning: Blackness and the 1960s Creative Nonfiction of Ōe Kenzaburō” Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production, co-edited with Cornyetz, Nina, Lexington Books, New Studies in Modern Japan (2015).
- “Extirpation is Not an Option: An Esperantic Vision of a Future for Black Studies from the Other Side of the Pacific”, InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture, Issue 31, Fall 2020.
- “An Immodest Proposal: In Thanks for Responses to the Inhumanities”, Special forum issue: History of the Inhumanities History of Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2019).
Translations of Japanese Literacy Theory and Criticism
- Tanaka, Minoru, “Three Keys to Unlocking the ‘Absurdity of Reading’—Text, the Shadow of the Original Sentence, Self-Destruction, and the Self-Expression of the Narrator”, PMLA, peer-review complete, accepted for review by editorial board.
- Ara, Masahito, “Second Youth,” co-translated and annotated with Yamazaki, Junko Politics and Literature Debate: Postwar Japanese Criticism 1945-1952, Burdaghs, Michael, Sakakibara, Richi, Toeda, Hirokazu, and Ueda, Atsuko, Lexington Books (2017).
- Hirano, Ken, “An Antithesis,” co-translated and annotated with Yamazaki, Junko et. al, Politics and Literature Debate: Postwar Japanese Criticism 1945-1952, Lexington Books (2017).
Honors and Activities
- Goergen Award for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence
- Best American Essays Notable Essay of 2020
- Pushcart Prize nomination (2020)
- National Endowment for Humanities Connection Grant (2020)
- University of Rochester Humanities Project (2018)
- Japan Foundation Japan Studies Fellowship (2017)
- Fulbright Scholar Fellowship - Japan (2016-2017)
- National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions Grant (2016)
- University of California Humanities Research Institute Presidential Fellowship (2016)
- University of California Consortium for Black Studies Research Grant (2016)
- St. Olaf College Virginia Dekker Research Course Release (Declined) (2015)
- GLCA Fund for the Study of Japan Grant (2013)
- St. Olaf College Academic Innovation Grant - Life and Anime (2013)
- St. Olaf College Academic Innovation Grant - Beginning Japanese (2013)
- Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities Seed Grant (2013)
- St. Olaf College Faculty Development Grant (2013)
- Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Council of Conferences, New Voices in Asian Studies Panel (2013)
- Association for Asian Studies Mid-Atlantic Region Annual Conference, Best Graduate Student Paper (2012)
- Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies Doctoral Fellow (2011-2012)
- Ford Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (Honorable Mention) (2011)
- Princeton Prize for Outstanding Doctoral Research (Runner-Up) (2010)
- Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Fellow (Japan) (2009-2010)
- Princeton University Hyde Fellowship (Japan) (2009-2010)
*Courses with graduate seminars marked with asterisk