Call for Papers: Travel and Landscape in Japanese Literature, Art, and Culture

Travel is Life, Travel is Home: Representing Travel and Landscape in Japanese Literature, Art, and Culture

April 4-6, 2019

University of Iowa, Iowa City IA

Deadline for proposals: December 10, 2018

Keynote: Meredith McKinney, visiting fellow at the Japan Center, Australian National University

In the introduction to his seventeenth-century travel diary, The Narrow Road of the Interior, Matsuo Bashō declares, in Helen McCullough’s translation, that “travel is life, travel is home.”  While the use of travel as a metaphor to express the transience of life was centuries old by Bashō’s time, the idea continues to resonate even today. The awareness of one’s environment as both the basis for and product of human experience has shaped representations of travel and landscape throughout Japanese cultural production, from Saigyō’s twelfth-century travel poetry, to Natsume Sōseki’s 1906 Kusamakura and beyond.


The interaction between humans and their environments is increasingly conceptualized in terms of mobile bodies, from observations of space as both “a product of interrelations” and a sphere of “contemporaneous plurality” (Doreen Massey 2005); to place as “the surveyor’s active involvement with the landscape” (Jeff Malpas 2009); to the paradox of “cosmopolitanisms” that simultaneously resists a stable permanent residence while adopting a plural understanding of places of origin (Robbins and Horta 2017). Instances of travel in all of its forms—for pilgrimage, official duties, tourism, military strategy, emigration, or evacuation, exile, and refuge—posit a body that moves through its environments, rather than existing as a static object. Even in the case of virtual or imagined travel, there is an emphasis on movement across space and through a succession of multiple places. Such instances of travel, represented and explored through literature, art, and performance, allow for an analysis of the ways in which humans not only conceptualize and interact with, but indeed move through their environments.


The University of Iowa Japanese Program, Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, and International Programs, with generous support from the Japan Foundation, seek papers addressing this conference’s broad themes, focusing on any period of Japanese cultural production. We are especially interested in papers that explore the themes of landscape, space, place, and travel as they are represented in literature, art, film, performance, religious history, and intellectual history or that engage relevant representations using media beyond the written word.


Please submit proposals, including name, affiliation, a paper title, and an abstract of no longer than 300 words for a 15- to 20-minute paper presentation, by December 10, 2018. Registration is free. Some funding will be available to defray travel expenses for participants.


Suggested Topics:

Travel within, through, outside of, or to Japan

Tourism and famous places

Pilgrimage, wandering, and reclusion

Official travel, exile, or statelessness

Nomadic or migrant patterns

Landscape and gender, sexuality, or the body

Virtual, imagined, or simulated travel

State or religious ideology and landscape

Authenticity, experience, and representation of landscape

Relationships between space and time

Ecological observations and processes

Impacts of technology or infrastructure upon travel practices

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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