On Degrees of Ignorance in East-West AestheticsSymposium Report

Mark Byron


On 17 September 2018 Andrew Houwen and Mark Byron convened a one-day symposium on the topic ‘On Degrees of Ignorance in East-West Aesthetics’ at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. The aim of the symposium was to consider a range of modern writers and film-makers dealing with aesthetic matters spanning Japan and the Anglophone West, and specifically to explore whether notions of ignorance and misunderstanding could be seen as opportunities for creative impetus. Although the event was not billed as an Ezra Pound symposium per se, his work arose in several of the papers and in discussion. The speakers included Ryoichi Imai, a graduate student from the University of Tokyo, Penny Barraclough and Ryan Johnson, both PhD students at the University of Sydney, Liz Shek-Noble from the NYU School of Professional Studies in Tokyo, Mark Azzopardi from Temple University’s Japan Campus in Tokyo, as well as Andrew (TWCU) and Mark (University of Sydney). The papers were followed by a roundtable featuring Ryoichi Imai, Liz Shek-Noble, David Ewick (TWCU), and Mark Byron, with Andy Houwen presiding.

            The day was marked by outstanding contributions by the attendant graduate students, Ryoichi, Penny and Ryan, each of whom gave thoughtful and provocative papers. The high standards of the papers – Liz Shek-Noble on Kenzaburō Ōe and Mark Azzopardi on Kōbō Abe also deserve special mention – were given a very generous reception by an expert audience. Profound thanks go to Akitoshi Nagahata and Miho Takahashi, who travelled from Nagoya and Osaka respectively in order to attend the event, as well as to Eric Selland, an outstanding poet and translator, resident in Tokyo, for their investment in the event and their extremely helpful contributions to discussion. The day concluded with a memorable meal at the Italian restaurant La Befana in Kichijoji. The flyer and full schedule of the symposium follow below.

            I would like to thank Andrew Houwen for convening such a wonderful event, and to David Ewick for his generous contributions straight from the airport! A major outcome of the symposium was the realization that there remains important work to be done regarding Pound’s relation with Japan, its history, literature and film, and his Japanese reception.


(L to R) Mark Azzopardi, Liz Shek-Noble, Ryoichi Imai, Akitoshi Nagahata, Eric Selland, Penny Barraclough, Mark Byron, David Ewick, Andrew Houwen, Ryan Johnson


(L to R) Mark Azzopardi, Liz Shek-Noble, Ryoichi Imai, Akitoshi Nagahata, Eric Selland, Penny Barraclough, Miho Takahashi, David Ewick, Andrew Houwen, Ryan Johnson


La Befana, Kichijoji, 17 September 2018