Closing the 8th summer session of IWL at the University of Tokyo

I am glad to announce that the summer session of Harvard University's Institute for World Literature (directed by Professor David Damrosch) at the University of Tokyo was successfully completed on the 26 of July, 2018.

As the host of this year's IWL summer session, what I can say at this moment is very limited. I can just say I am so very happy that I am witnessing the moment of successfully finishing the whole session. It is not for me to judge whether it can be evaluated as a success or not, but if it is, notwithstanding the unprecedented heatwave and the university's limited (not state-of-the-art) facilities, it is not a credit to somebody in particular; I believe it is something which we all participated in, and it is we, all together, who have made it a meaningful and fruitful experience.
 So I'd like to thank everybody, all of you, for your active participation in our common task to make it a great success and I would like to congratulate all of you on this memorable summer's experience.

In Japan, just like elsewhere, World literature is still considered something dubious. Particularly at such an old prestigious university as the University of Tokyo, the conventional structuring of departments according to the language and nation, like Department of English, Japanese, Chinese, etc., the authority of specialists of a national literature remains still firm and unchallenged (By the way, here I am using the word "authority" with no shade of irony; for I myself am, for that matter, "an authority" in Russian literature).
 So here, at the faculty of letters, my colleagues keep asking me: what is world literature? What on earth could it be? If one doesn't have enough time and intellect to study properly even one single literature, how can one deal with such vast time and space as world literature?

In reply to such a skeptical question, I used to refer them to David Damrosch's book "Please read "What is World Literature," It is now available in Japanese translation. I am sure you will find there several possible answers."

But now, having finished our summer session, I feel I've got another good answer to the question. If I am asked now "What is world literature?", I think I can tell them: It is simple. Look at us. It is WE. World literature is ALL OF US who have participated in the summer session of IWL.
 I am not joking. I don't believe that world literature is a fixed field or an approach set in a predetermined theoretical framework. It is rather real people who are pursuing it with thrill and enthusiasm. So it is YOU. World literature is WHO ARE PURSUING IT. If what I am saying sounds like a meaningless tautology, so be it, but it is about time to propagate this simple truth.
 Therefore, dear IWL participants, please go home with this proud answer kept in mind for future use. I wish all of you bon voyage, 一路平安!

Mitsuyoshi Numano 沼野充義
Host
Professor at the Department of Contemporary Literary Studies The University of Tokyo