Thursday, April 19th, 2018...6:47 pmElizabeth

Final Project Idea!

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I think I would like to write about “Canned Foreign” and “Storytellers Without Souls” from Where Europe Begins by Yoko Tawada. I was originally between Elizabeth Bishop, Naomi Shihab Nye and Yoko Tawada. However, I chose Tawada because I am the most passionate about her work, especially after personally meeting, and receiving answers from her. I feel having had this opportunity to ask questions and hear her talk and perform two times in person will really help broaden my perspective and understanding of her work to write a solid piece. I also can relate to Tawada’s work by not being able to understand foreign languages sometimes, and how the sounds just pass through ones ear. I also decided on this text because I think Tawada’s work really encapsulates what we have been learning in class, or seen in repeating patters, that is, learning how to read. I am fascinated with the ways in which people understand unknown information and are able to learn a valid way of communication through their experiences. After all, without some form of communication whether through images, reading, speaking or listening there would be no way to learn and navigate ones way through the world.

The concept that one can be looking or seeing something but not reading or understanding, and listening but not hearing is a point I would like to discuss in my edition. Tawada relates this concept to animals to project the idea of “otherness” and not belonging. The soul, in response develops and alters when in different “cells” or geographical spaces. Tawada associates these spaces of cells with talking or storytelling, and explains how stories can travel or stay in one place/be stationary. Through my experience with learning Italian, and traveling in general it is hard to do anything but absorb and listen to the information and try to understand what is presented to you. However, most of time all one can do is just understand the essence of what they were exposed to. While the soul alters, it never becomes lost, it just changes or develops further – exposure to different cultures or foreign entities can have a positive affect on the soul.

In the critical edition I would like to talk about these concepts from Tawada’s text because I am interested in the objects and various animals she writes about. Her writing is so heavily focused on language, listening and seeing and I want to explore the value of communication when one does not fully understand another culture, person, object or animal. Tawada mentioned that animals have “human rights,” and I believe using this, as a lens to look at the text will be helpful when discussing the impact of geography and communication.


  • I’m interested in your choice to work with two texts, with the amount Tawada works into even one sentence, there’s gonna be more than enough to work with.

    What’s going to be important in your discussion of Tawada’s more general themes (as it sounds like you’re focused on) is why those two texts specifically. Why not Memoirs of a Polar Bear, for example (since you mention her assertions about animals).

    Side note: That might actually be super cool because it will be something new (which is always more fun) but it’s still Tawada! Just something to consider…

    Overall though you have a broad focus, and your choice of text(s) will help you specify that. But at the same time, verbalizing that specificity is gonna be important because right now I’m not sure why you chose the texts you did instead of others in Where Europe Begins (maybe even the title story might be fun to consider as well).

  •   Professor Seiler
    April 20th, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Elizabeth, I LOVE that the sheer act of having to write this post helped you home in on your deepest curiosity for this final project. That’s such a great lesson to take with you about writing your way to what you know… or what you want to know. It sounds to me like you want to orient your edition of Tawada’s two stories around *translation* and *empathy.” Is that right? (You could also just do _WEB_ with these two stories as your cases in point.) Sounds very promising…

  • I really love this idea. I think that there is so much about Tawada that you could write about. I think that the idea that you would combine the ideas that you have about her work and what she said in class would be so interesting to write about.

    I think her ideas about animals and their connection to “otherness” would be interesting, but I agree with Lilian about the fact that you might have more success looking at “Memoirs of a Polar Bear.” I think that this would draw so many connections that would help your argument.

    I am so curious to see where you go with this.

  • I think your fascination with Yoko Tawada’s works will definitely make your final project a promising one! You have always loved her so much.

    I have several suggestions for you: because this is a historical approach project, I believe it might be beneficial to look into certain Asian aesthetic standards and religious beliefs before you start writing about Yoko Tawada. She has such a great connection with the Japanese tradition and I think several ideas in her writing beautifully mirror her roots.

    With Yoko Tawada, you can even go so far as tracing back the history of German or Japanese, or just the history of languages overall!

    Just a side note, I am also planning to write about Yoko Tawada!

  • It sounds like your edition will definitely be focused on language and then the interpretation of language, even if the language itself is not traditionally “understood” in terms of direct translation. I like that you mentioned Yoko Tawada’s highlighting of animals and their place in the world of language. I personally have always felt very connected to animals. To some this may sound strange, but I have always felt as if they could understand me on some level, even if we don’t speak the same language in terms of English. I think this sense of communication is what you’re trying to explore in your essay and I think it’s a great idea!

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