Helen Parker

Lecturer in Japanese


I read Japanese at St Anne's College, Oxford from 1983 to 1987, taking the third year as a MonbushĂ´ exchange student at the Faculty of Education in Hiroshima University. Immediately after graduation, I spent one year as a research student in Dramatic Arts at the Graduate School of Literature in Waseda University. I returned to Oxford in 1988, and continued to work on the relationships between traditional Japanese performing arts, completing a doctoral dissertation in 1993 on "Plot Repetition in Traditional Japanese Theatre, with Specific Reference to the Yoshitsune Shitsuijidai Theme".

I was appointed to my current post in 1990 and am now teaching courses on classical literature (prose, drama and poetry of the Tokugawa period) and modern literature, as well as contributing to first and second year Japanese language courses and East Asian Civilisation. In Autumn 1999, I took sabbatical leave from the University of Edinburgh and spent one semester as a Visiting Scholar at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Hikone, Japan, teaching a course on Traditional Japanese Drama while pursuing my research on plot repetition.

I moved to Tokyo in January 2000, where I spent a further four months as a Japan Foundation Fellow at the Tsubouchi Memorial Museum, Waseda University, engaged in research for the Progressive Traditions project outlined below. The results of this research have now been published as the multi-media Progressive Traditions (see below for details). The CD-ROM contains video clips, photographs and nishiki-e prints from productions in each genre to illustrate the staging of the plots examined. Its aim is to enable users to understand and appreciate Japanese theatre using resources that reproduce performance more fully and accurately than is possible through written description only.

I am also interested in gender and cross-dressing issues in both traditional theatre and more recent forms such as the work of the all-female Takarazuka Revue Company. Beyond the study of theatre, I am interested in the history of Japanese women, especially in the modern period and in issues in Japanese-English literary translation.

I greatly value the opportunity to interact with colleagues at other universities working in similar fields, and participate actively in national and international bodies, most notably the European Association for Japanese Studies for which I served as Secretary from 2003-2008. I am also actively involved in conference organization. For example, in 2001, I organized Japanese Theatre in the Twenty-first Century at Edinburgh, bringing together performers, scholars, and members of the local community concerned with Japanese theatre; and in 2003 with Dr Hiroko Tomida, Japanese Women Emerging from Subservience, 1868-1945, contributions to which were published in 2005 in a book with the same title. My current research explores kabuki history in the post-occupation period through a collection of photographs compiled in the period 1953-55 by kabuki scholars Aubrey and Giovanna Halford.

  • September 2012: "What can the study of _keitai shousetsu_ contribute to the academic field of modern Japanese literature?" For panel on _Women writing, Women reading_ at the annual conference of the British Association for Japanese Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
  • August 2011: Nostalgia, space and memory: the Tokyo Kabuki-za, 1951-2010. 12th Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies, Tallinn, Estonia.
  • October 2010: Report on HaNABI Project (Handheld-device enhanced learning with Nintendo?s Applications Beyond Institutions) for the JISC Learning and Teaching Practice Experts Group Meeting "Looking to the Future?", Birmingham, UK.