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We will read and discuss the two highest-acclaimed novels of Kenzaburo Oe, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994. The first, A Personal Matter, was written shortly after his handicapped child Hikari was born. It deals with how a young man in his twenties can or cannot find the courage and personal power to take on the challenge of loving and caring for his new, mentally disabled son. The second, The Silent Cry, results from Oe’s deep reading of William Faulkner. This somewhat long, very rich novel takes as its themes the love between brothers, a wife finding her independence, the balance between truth-seeking thought and political activism, and how difficult it can be to “understand” one’s family. Oe was deeply influenced by French humanism as well as a wide range of writers from the American deep south, Europe, and Asia. Some of these poets, novelists, and philosophers will be discussed along the way.
John Wallace is Senior Lecturer in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley, where he teaches premodern Japanese language and literature, modern Japanese literature and East Asian traditions. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is also an SAA Advisor and has taught several Literature and Culture courses in the past.
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