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Dr Victoria Young

Modern and contemporary Japanese literature; Okinawan studies; writing by minorities in Japan; postcolonial studies; feminist criticism; translation theory
Dr Victoria Young

Kawashima Lecturer in Japanese Literature and Culture

Fellow and Director of Studies at Selwyn College


Biography:

Nobody can quite recall what first triggered my interest in Japanese, but since a family holiday to Greece at the age of five, I have always been fascinated by languages that use different writing systems to English. Although at one stage I had thought I would become a maths teacher, I was thrilled to discover that I could study Japanese ab initio at university. I took up my BA in Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall), where my passion for the Japanese language was further piqued by reading works of literature in class. I then completed an MA in Japanese Cultural Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, before spending three and a half years at Waseda University in Tokyo as a research student in the then Institute for Ryukyuan and Okinawan Studies. I was awarded my Ph.D by the University of Leeds in 2016. My thesis focused on works of literature by three writers: Sakiyama Tami, Yi Yang-ji, and Tawada Yōko. Most often associated with the categories of Okinawan, resident Korean (zainichi), and ‘transborder’ literature respectively, my research traced the multiple and intriguing ways in which these works of fiction reinscribe, transcend, and challenge the margins and borders of Japanese literature.

While carrying out my Ph.D research, I taught classes on modern and contemporary Japanese literature at the University of Leeds and the University of Sheffield. In February 2017, I became a Teaching Fellow at Newcastle University where I also co-taught a course on contemporary Japanese popular culture. I returned to the Faculty in Cambridge in September 2017, where I teach papers in modern and contemporary Japanese literature, and Japanese cinema.

Subject groups/Research projects

Japanese Studies:

Research Interests

Modern and contemporary literature in Japan and Okinawa; the writing of ethnic, gendered, and linguistic difference in literature (in both colonial period and contemporary 'transborder' contexts); feminist literary criticism; translation in theory and practice.

My research has primarily focused on the writings of Sakiyama Tami, Yi Yang-ji, and Tawada Yōko. What draws me particularly to these works of literature are the articulations of female body, voice, and silence as they relate to broader concerns of language, memory and translatability. I am currently developing articles related to my Ph.D research, in addition to revising my thesis manuscript into a book. 

Other Professional Activities

I am a keen amateur literary translator. My translation of the poem "Backbone" (Senaka) by the Okinawan poet, Tōma Hiroko, is published in: Bhowmik, Davinder L, & Steve Rabson (eds.). 2016. Islands of Protest: Japanese Literature from Okinawa. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Upon passing my Ph.D viva, I also spent nine months working as a full-time Japanese-English interpreter inside the Nissan car battery plant in Sunderland.