Orna Shaughnessy

Japanese Program


Orna Shaughnessy spent four years in Kyoto, Japan, before coming to graduate school at UC Berkeley to study modern Japanese literature. Her M.A. Thesis, titled "A Literature of Commitment: the Aesthetics of Japanese Proletariat Fiction in 1927," examines the various politically inflected literary aesthetics of four writers of the 1920s. Currently, her dissertation research, for which she spent 2007-2008 as a Fulbrighter in Tokyo's National Institute of Japanese Literature, examines the figure of the translator in Japanese travel literature published in the 1860s and 1870s. Titled "The Omniscient Translator: The Culture of Language Play in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Japanese Travel Narratives," Orna's dissertation argues that travel literature of the time, as Japan experienced momentous political and social change, is characterized by a culture of language play. This culture of language play drew upon traditional Japanese literary conventions' legacy of complex word play and punning finesse to incorporate new foreign language words and ideas. Language itself came to be identified as the coin by which purchase of the modern was possible, and language acquisition and its embodiment--the interpreter or translator--sprung into dramatic prominence. By examining the character of the translator and the role of language play and linguistic translation in travel narratives, Orna discovers what was imagined possible in Japanese popular literature at the moment of incipient modernization and industrialization.