A Trespasser – Mourning Masao Miyoshi
Kojin KARATANI (Translated by Mari T. HOASHI)
Masao Miyoshi was born in Tokyo in 1929. He graduated from the old system 'First High School' and the English Literature department of Tokyo University. In 1953 he went to the United States as a Fulbright scholar. He earned a doctorate in Victorian literature from New York University and became a professor of English literature at the University of California at Berkeley. He was one of very few English literature professors whose mother tongue was not English.
It was during wartime Japan when English was publicly regarded as the enemy’s language that Miyoshi immersed himself in the study of English language and literature. For him it was a way to resist the Japanese war. Accordingly he gave up his native citizenship.
In 1974 he published Accomplices of Silence: The Modern Japanese Novel. This book was both a scandal and an epoch-making event in Japanese literary studies in the United States.
In June of this year he was informed about the last stages of lung cancer. This was unexpected for him yet I think he had been ready to go for some time. Miyoshi had agreed to give autobiographical interviews to his former student Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, and this was published with the title Toward the Position of Resistance—for Transcending All Boundaries (Teiko No Ba E, Rakuhoku Shuppan, 2007). Another of his students Eric Cazdyn was also compiling Miyoshi’s selected writings which became Trespasses (Duke UP, 2010). With these books we can get an overview of his work. As the titles show, Miyoshi was a trespasser throughout his life.
Kojin Karatani is a well-known philosopher and literary theorist in Tokyo.
Mari T. Hoashi is a writer and translator living in Santa Cruz, California.