Dr. Alex Bates, East Asian Studies

Nature and the Environment in Japanese Literature and Film

Professor Bates used the Valley and Ridge workshop to develop a new course on Nature and the Environment in Japanese Literature and Film. The workshop helped him consider the different ways nature has been brought into representation in Japan and the US. The Valley and Ridge workshop helped Professor Bates see the limits of human morality and the disjuncture between ecological equilibrium and human conceptions of right and wrong. This was especially brought home by the visit to the Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary. This was an area designed to protect animals, rather than an ecosystem. Though we may understand the ideas of morality underscoring the establishment of the sanctuary, the good intentions to protect wildlife is precisely that which is killing the forest. Additionally, the visit to the farm (and fruitful discussions with colleagues) helped illustrate ways that local resources could be relevant to a course about a country halfway around the world. Ultimately, the Valley and Ridge workshop helped Professor Bates see his role in this course as something more than teaching about Japan and Japanese literature and film; rather, the need is to teach about the world and the environment through the case of Japan.