King Hall 113B
Tel: (718) 997-5568
Associate Professor of Japanese. Ph.D.,
Prof. Cook teaches advanced Japanese reading courses, Classical
Japanese, Classical Chinese, East Asian Literature in translation,
and developed a writing intensive course on the Book of Genji
and Japanese women writers. His research specialities are the editing
of Classical manuscripts, poetics, Classical Japanese hermeneutics,
and literary theory, and he translates Classical Japanese.
I teach courses in Japanese and Chinese literature in English translation,
and courses in modern Japanese language. The challenge of teaching
literature in translation is that literary texts are often those
which most adamantly resist successful rewording or paraphrase,
and above all in translation. This is especially true perhaps of
lyric poetry, and in both Chinese and Japanese traditions, the lyric
poem was the most prestigious genre of creative literature. Fortunately,
many works from both languages have been rendered into English by
translators such as Waley, Pound, Kenneth Rexroth and Gary Snyder,
all of them poets in their own right. And a number of the most engaging
texts are available in versions by several different translators.
I've found that by using varied and often competing English versions
of short poems together with the originals in Chinese and Japanese,
it's possible to explore something of the sense of what gets "lost"
in and what survives the straits of translation.
My research in recent years has been evoted to editing and translating
the textbooks of the so-called 'Secret Teachings of Ancient and
Modern Poetry,' an institution for training teachers of poetry that
flourished in late medieval Japan. Apart from rote emorization of
canonical texts, the tools of the trade for poetry teachers at the
time were ommentary
Their objective was to provide instruction not only in the arts
of making but in those of reading and judging poetry. The 'Secret
Teachings' was a remarkably successful institution. Its graduates
enjoyed great prestige and often substantial financial rewards,
despite the fact that few of them achieved lasting acclaim as poets.
Perhaps there are some lessons here for our contemporary institutions
of literary education.