Monday, April 23rd, 2018...5:53 amnguyetra

Final Project: Yoko Tawada’s “Where Europe Begins” or…

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For my final project, I think I will write about Yoko Tawada’s “Where Europe Begins.” When I was reading these short stories, I resonated with the feeling of being a foreigner and hearing languages that make little senses to one’s ears. As an ambivert, I have always thought about how words sometimes seem to die on my tongue just as I was about to speak them, how they sometimes fail to convey what I feel to the fullest.

There are several historical lenses that I want to apply on “Where Europe Begins,” one being the history of folktales. When Yoko Tawada came to our class, I asked her why she would include folktales in her works. She answered that she was fascinated with stories that are rooted in both the German and the Japanese traditions, and this was extremely interesting to me. I believe that doing research on these tales’ original meanings versus Yoko Tawada’s interpretation will shed a new light on “Where Europe Begins.” I am also thinking of looking into the history of immigrants and foreigners as well as the stereotypes of Japanese women, as Yoko Tawada always writes “across borders” and shows how people are classified under quite discriminative categories for their “otherness.” This is where Yoko Tawada displays her empathy most affectionately, asking big questions about seemingly trivial things like a can of fish or a doll. The idea of “the soul” in her stories is central to Asian religious beliefs, and I believe that bringing such information into my analysis may help in forming a valid argument. Finally, while Yoko Tawada’s writing is strange, I don’t find this to be very surprising. Many Japanese literary works also feature such strangeness as a signifying trait, and I wonder whether including how eccentricity and madness affect Japanese novels will prove to be relevant.

Another book I want to write about is “The Spook Who Sat By The Door” by Sam Greenlee. This is a book about the first black man who made it into the CIA but was only trying to take their information and training methods for his Black Movement and separation causes. This book is promising because it resembles the history of the Black Panther Party. The book also demonstrates how black people were made into “ornaments” of the office spaces so that employers could show to the public how they valued “equal treatment” between races.

I am having a really hard time deciding between these two books. It would help me a lot to have some insights from you guys!


  • In reference to Where Europe Begins, I’m curious if you mean the whole collection of stories or the story by that name in particular.
    I really like your comment on comparing this to other Japanese literature because this is an approach we really didn’t look at so much in class and introduces a nice in to discussing this story(stories).
    Either way, you have a clear interest here that is worth exploring.
    Elizabeth is also working with Tawada, and while I don’t think that should necessarily deter you, it’s worth knowing. And if you do want to make sure you do something different, your second book looks like a great option, especially with a strong race theory and historical lens.

  •   Professor Seiler
    April 24th, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Hi, Trang–You mentioned in class this morning that you’re thinking of changing your choice for the critical edition. Will you please let me know? I’ll comment accordingly.

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