As an Associate Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Tokyo, I usually offer four courses per semester in the Faculty of Letters and Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology at Hongo Campus. My classes seek to bring students into a new dialogue with significant figures of German literary history ranging from Goethe and the romanticists to Thomas Mann and the modernist writers. They take literary texts as a powerful medium to put us in contact with our past and they aim at exploring how literature is a social practice that circulates collective energies throughout times and cultures. Most of the texts examined in class are in German but selected in respect to available standard translations in Japanese. I hope these classes help enable students to both consolidate and extend their analytic skills, their interest in challenging thoughts and their intellectual openness.
In the tradition of German academia, I am strongly committed to Wilhelm von Humboldts ideal of the unity of research and teaching. My work is guided particularly by intellectual history with a keen interest in the social entanglements of literature. It began with examining the conditions of individuality in Goethe’s novels and tales, which was also the topic of my first book. From Goethe and individuality I moved on to the work of Alfred Doeblin in regard to masses, media and metropolises. My second book is dedicated to this Jewish-German writer’s time in Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles and his engagement with film and radio. German writing on Hollywood and on the transpacific relations between China, Japan and the US occupies me as well as European self-reflection in terms of the occident or “Abendland.” My third book, a biography, critically deals with the issues of the construction of collective identity in Germany between 1900 und 1950 by means of a less well-known Christian writer, Hans Heinrich Ehrler, who engaged in widespread discourses on “Heimat” and “Abendland.” In my fourth book, I examined the use of Goethe’s life and letters in German-Japanese diplomacy and in Japanese nation building. Among my edited and co-edited volumes I would like to point out the “Handbuch Literatur & Film,” a comprehensive survey of the relations between the two media.