Iconics 10 and Academic Film Societies in Japan

Film studies has had a hard time developing as an academic discipline in Japan. There are many reasons for that, but one has been the lack of a strong film studies society. Such societies can be problematic in the way their power can be used to define the discipline, but when the discipline is in the minority, they can be strategically important in coordinating activities, promoting communication and networking, consolidating power, and providing legitimacy. 

The Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences (Nihon Eizo Gakkai 日本映像学会) has valiantly tried to create such a society in Japan, but it has not been easy. Academic societies in Japan need a university to back them, but the JASIAS's backer, Nihon University, insisted from the start that film was insufficient for an academic society and forced the founders to make this an eizo gakkai not an eiga gakkai. The JASIAS is still hampered by having a membership that is too diverse, spanning film academics to filmmakers, from educational media consultants to people who make video projectors. The film studies people, however, long ago "took over" the two journals the JASIAS publishes - Eizogaku and Iconics - and now these two can offer some of the best examples of academic film scholarship in Japan. (I have been a member of the JASIAS for about twenty years, including several years serving on the board of directors, and many years working on various committees, including the editorial boards of the two journals.)

There are other societies in Japan that profess to include film, but the Hyosho Bunkaron Gakkai is largely a product of Tokyo University's peculiar conception of "Culture and Representation" and seems to feature less and less film, and the Nihon Eiga Gakkai was what Kato Mikiro formed when the JASIAS expelled him for various misdeeds (I would not touch it with a ten-foot pole). 

This is all basically a long introduction to an announcement that the JASIAS has just published the 10th issue of Iconics: International Studies of the Modern Image (ISSN 1345-4447). Iconics is published once every 2 years as the international journal of the JASIAS and introduces articles in English, French and German on cinema and other modern image media. The Society also publishes the journal Eizogaku twice a year in Japanese. Iconics features refereed submissions from JASIAS members and invited articles by major world scholars. I am currently on the editorial board of Iconics and used to be the editor.

The new issue features several fine articles on Japanese film, including Jonathan Hall's provocative piece on the neglect of psychoanalysis in Japan film studies, Kano Yuka's rethinking of Hara Setsuko's significance, Okubo Ryo's investigation of combinations of film and theater in early cinema, Naoki Yamamoto's groundbreaking work on why Bluebird films were so important in Japanese film history, and Ryan Cook's deft analysis of the peculiar connections between Oshima and Hasumi regarding sex and cinema. (Naoki and Ryan are my students at Yale.) Each issue of Iconics features one translated article that was selected by the editorial board as the best piece published in the previous two years in Eizogaku: Okubo Ryo's article is that piece in Volume 10.

Here is the table of contents:

  • Pragmatism and the Interpretation of Films (Martin Lefebvre)
  • La Fin du Grand Sommeil de l'Introuvable Dame du Lac (Marc Cerisuelo)
  • Liquid Cinema and the Watery Substance of Vision (A. L. Rees)
  • Kinodrama and Kineorama: Modernity and the Montage of Stage and Screen (Okubo Ryo)
  • The "Eternal Virgin" Reconsidered: Hara Setsuko in Contexts (Kanno Yuka)
  • Strange Bedfellows: Hasumi Shigehiko and Oshima Nagisa on Sex, Censorship and Cinema (Ryan M. Cook)
  • Where Did the Bluebird of Happiness Fly?: Bluebird Photoplays and the Reception of American Films in 1910s Japan (Yamamoto Naoki)
  • Kneeling on Broken Glass: Psychoanalysis and Japan Film Studies (Jonathan M. Hall)

For a list of the contents of previous issues of Iconics, please consult the JASIAS website. You can download some, but not all of the articles from previous issues on the CiNii website.

Inquiries about acquiring single issues of Iconics or starting a subscription, or about joining the JASIAS, can be addressed to the JASIAS office: jasias@nihon-u.ac.jp 

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