Russian Senior Lecturer Bella Ginzbursky-Blum interviews new colleague Robert Mulcahy about his research and teaching. Prof. Mulcahy just started teaching at William and Mary in the Fall of 2014.
This past October, William & Mary alum Mike Crandol (’07) returned to campus to share with us what he’s been up to since he left. After graduating with a major in East Asian Studies, Mike entered the graduate program at the University of Minnesota, where he’s now finishing up his doctoral degree. Mike’s research concerns the genre of “kaiki eiga” or “bizarre films”—predecessors to today’s “J-horror.” After his fascinating talk, Mike answered some questions about grad school, his research, and how W&M prepared him for both.
How did you become interested in Japan and Japanese cinema?
Anime was the gateway drug, like it is for a lot of people in my generation, I suppose. I’ve loved animation my whole life. When I was a kid I wanted to be a Disney animator. As I got older, the more sophisticated content in some Japanese animation appealed to me. I also started to get more interested in live-action cinema, so it all kind of came together neatly when I decided to major in East Asian Studies at W&M.
Did you do a study-abroad program while an undergrad at W&M?
No. At the time I was convinced that I needed to study Japanese for several more years before I’d even be able to function in Japan. I’ve since learned that’s not true. The sooner you go to Japan, the faster you will pick up the language, no matter what level you’re at when you arrive.
Why did you decide to continue on to graduate school?
I had no intention of going to grad school while I was at W&M. The summer after I graduated I went to talk to Professor [Rachel] DiNitto, and told her I really didn’t know what to do next, but I didn’t want to let all my time studying Japanese language and culture go to waste. She knew I was interested in cinema and suggested I apply to the PhD program in Asian Literatures, Cultures, and Media at the University of Minnesota, where a colleague of hers did some work on Japanese film. That colleague became my graduate advisor!
How did your undergrad experience at W&M prepare you for graduate school?
I think your undergraduate education ideally prepares you to be able to talk about texts and topics that interest you in a more insightful manner. It gives you the context and the raw materials. At W&M I took classes not only on Japanese film but Japanese history, culture, and religion as well. This allows you, as a grad student, to do theoretical analysis of Japanese film while taking into account cultural/historical contexts that a regular film critic might miss.
What led you to kaiki eiga?
Along with animation, horror movies are another lifelong interest of mine. J-horror was still pretty popular when I was at W&M – things like The Ring and Ju-on: The Grudge. Everybody – even academics – was talking about these films, but nobody seemed to know what had come before. While I was at W&M, Criterion released a film from 1960 called Jigoku by a director named Nakagawa Nobuo on DVD. In the extra features, renowned J-horror director Kurosawa Kiyoshi talks about the influence of Nakagawa’s kaiki eiga on his own films. That was the beginning, for me. Nakagawa was the greatest Japanese kaiki eiga director, but it’s this whole genre of popular horror film that covers a span of over 50 years. Yet today most people know almost nothing at all about it, even in Japan.
What sort of reception have you gotten to your research topic?
People are excited by it, both here and in Japan. There are only two or three scholars in Japan who have really tackled the topic before. Japanese academics I’ve met have been surprised a foreigner has even heard of some of these movies. And American and European scholars I’ve spoken with agree that it’s important to correct the notion in the West that Japanese horror is only Godzilla, The Ring, and splatter-gore pictures like Ichi the Killer.
Any advice for students trying to identify a compelling research project?
It’s of course important to try and find something new or ‘fresh’ that hasn’t really been done before, but I think it’s more important to do something you genuinely love. It sounds cliché but it’s true. If you’re going to devote a big chunk of your life to something, it needs to be something you’re passionate about. Be an otaku about it. If you have that level of geeky love for your topic, you’ll certainly be able to notice something about it that no one else has. And that’s how you make it fresh and your own.
Professor Monica Seger is our new faculty member in Italian Studies. In this interview, Professor Seger talks about her research, courses she’s teaching, and how her passion for the environment breathes life into both.
In the summer of 2014, Hispanic Studies majors Michael Le (Class of 2015) and Robert Bohnke (’17) worked as research fellows with Professor Francie Cate-Arries, supported by a generous grant by the Weingartner Fellowship for International Studies. Cate-Arries’ historical memory project seeks to record and digitally archive testimonies gathered in the province of Cádiz, Spain from family members whose loved ones were murdered during the early days of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Francisco Franco dictatorship (1939-1975). In collaboration with photographer and videographer Mike Blum, W&M Academic Technology Specialist, the research team is creating a website to showcase the oral testimonies, the objects of memory, and the places of remembrance that tell the story of the civil war’s losers. Spain’s new generation of activist grandchildren advocate for the exhumation of mass graves, recovering not only the remains of family members “disappeared” during the regime, but the buried history that now comes to light as victims’ descendents recount families’ tales of terror & resistance.
Robert Bohnke’s contributions included his transcriptions of recorded testimonies, and subtitles for a 2014 documentary about the 1936 civilian massacre of villagers of La Sauceda. He recalls high points of the project: “In Cádiz, the history of the Spanish Civil War is all around you. There are castles on the beach of La Caleta that were used as prisons for political prisoners and shortly thereafter as the sites of executions. In addition to the presence of this history, a growing number on Spaniards are working to create a social and political dialog about those who were executed during war… Some of the most inspiring, serious, and thought provoking moments of my study abroad came while I was working on my research project and while discussing the legacy of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) with the diverse assortment of individuals I met in Spain. I attended documentary screenings about a recent exhumation of a mass grave at La Sauceda, interviewed a historian, and traveled through Cádiz with Professor Cate-Arries observing how modern Spaniards remember and commemorate their past. I heard a member of the audience at the documentary say that equally as important as the disinterment of the remains is the ‘recovery of the ideas of these bones’.”
Michael Le similarly transcribed audiofiles and the documentary script. When one of his research blog readers asked him about the emotional dimension of working with testimonies of trauma–“Are there any narratives that stuck out to you as you transcribed?”—he responded: “I transcribed a bit of Andrés Rebolledo’s interview where he talks about his grandfather and this intense yearning to know his grandparents. It’s heartbreaking and feels very much like a need to know one’s identity, which has essentially been denied and stolen from him. I also recall the vocal Lucía Román, who spoke about how her grandfather died in her father’s place when the soldiers collected civilians. I also remember María Martín Pérez, the granddaughter of a desaparecido. She spoke about how the soldiers were killing children, and her grandmother had to leave her husband to protect her family. She ends up in tears when she says that her grandmother and mother were so consumed with the fear that the soldiers would find and kill them one day, that her mother ended up committing suicide years later. It’s rather hard to watch.”
Sample testimonies may be consulted online at http://francoswar.blogs.wm.edu
In 2014, Prof. Bruce Campbell came out with a new book which he co-edited and wrote an article for. The volume, titled Detectives, Dystopias, and Poplit: Studies in Modern German Genre Fiction, is a study of what Prof. Campbell describes as denigrated genres of popular fiction. Below is his discussion about the production of the book and why you should pay more attention to the genres of detective fiction, science fiction, and other popular fiction if you really want to know about German society and culture.
In the Fall semester 2014, Prof. Magali Compan taught a new course in the French section, a Freshman seminar entitled “Francophone Women Writers”. The course examined texts by women from around the Francophone World (Mauritius Island, France, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Reunion Island, Sénégal, Tahiti, Algeria). During the course of the semester, students examined how women from different cultures and countries narrate their lives through literature and film. The texts they explored reveal vital insights into the history, culture, social realities, and politics of francophone cultures. While the course theme centered on questions of gender, the texts they explored also raise important issues of race, social class, religion, colonialism and post-colonialism. This class, which was taught exclusively in French, offered the opportunity to discuss in large and smaller groups literature and theoretical texts. In this video her students share some thoughts about the Freshmen seminar.
Professor Jennifer Lee arrived at William and Mary in the Fall and has jumped into her duties in the Chinese program. Below is an interview with Prof. Lee about her teaching, research, and life at the College.
Chef Katsuya Fukushima, owner of Washington, DC ramen restaurant Daikaya and two-time winner of Iron Chef America came to William and Mary in the Fall to teach a class on Arabic cooking. Chef Fukushima cooked for students of Prof. Stephen Sheehi in the Arabic House, taught them about Arabic cooking and then answered some questions about his career and experiences as a cook. Watch the interview and some highlights from the cooking demonstration below: