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Guest Post: Audrey Loiselle's at the L.M. Montgomery International Conference at Reitaku University

We are so thrilled that Audrey Loiselle agreed to give the LMMI a full report of what happened at the very first international conference about L.M. Montgomery outside PEI, in Japan. It sounds like a tremendous success. Congratulations, Kristie Collins and the other organizers!


L.M. Montgomery International Conference at Reitaku University

By, Audrey Loiselle

On the cloudy morning of Saturday, June 22nd, presenters at the L.M. Montgomery International Conference hosted at Reitaku University, many of whom had already met the night before during an animated welcoming dinner at the “Kurage” (Jellyfish) restaurant in Kashiwa, made their way to the Kaede building of the Reitaku campus with the assistance of diligent student guides. 

They were warmly welcomed on site by Kristie Collins, conference chair, and Kazunobu Horiuchi, vice-president of Reitaku University, who, after briefly setting the context of the very first L.M. Montgomery conference held outside of PEI, turned the floor over to the participants of the first panel, entitled “Anne and Modern Japanese Literature.”

During the hour and a half that followed, Hiromi Ochi, from Hitotsubashi University (Japan), introduced the audience to the network of female translators and librarians who worked in the shadow of man-dominated Cold War cultural diplomacy to import foreign children’s literature to Japan, notably Anne; Joan Ericson, from Colorado College (USA), discussed the renewed interest, post-WWII, for children’s literature focused on helping children navigate real-life problems and the obvious appeal of Annein this context; finally, Patricia Sippel, from Tokyo Eiwa University (Japan), drew a portrait of Loretta Leonard Shaw, a Canadian missionary who worked in Japan as a teacher and editor for two decades, and stressed her insistence on promoting good, moral literature and her influence on Muraoka Hanako, first translator of Anne of Green Gables in Japanese. 

Following a short Q and A period, the presenters and attendees were served a bento box lunch, as well as tea and confections meticulously prepared and presented by the Reitaku University Japanese Tea Ceremony Club. 

After lunch break, Nobuyuki Sato from Chuo University (Japan), president of the Japanese Association for Canadian Studies (JACS), reintroduced Kristie Collins, conference chair and associate professor and head of the English and Liberal Arts program at Reitaku University (Japan), who gave the first keynote speech of the conference. In “Growing up with Anne: An unexpected feminist journey,” Collins described her initial pull to Anne as a child, her subsequent detachment as a teen and her surprise rediscovery and reappraisal of the universe of Montgomery and her red-haired heroine at a later stage of her personal and professional life. 

The conference then moved on to the second panel, entitled “L.M. Montgomery’s Life and Times.” First up was Kazuko Sakuma, from Sophia University in Tokyo (Japan), who highlighted the continued resonance for Japanese women of Anne’s positive attitude in the face of her temporary, yet unmistakable renunciation to higher education in favour of familial and domestic obligations at the end of Anne of Green Gables

Following Sakuma’s presentation, Kristie Collins came back on stage to deliver — in the absence of its indisposed author — the paper of Hiroko Washizu, professor emeritus of the University of Tsukuba (Japan), entitled “Dry Island: Drinking in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series.” The essay examined how the pre-Prohibition and Prohibition eras in P.E.I. shaped the fictionalized island in the Anneseries. 

Finally, the last presenter of the day, Etsuko Ishii, of Tokyo Women’s Medical University (Japan), discussed the omnipresence of orphans in the motherless Montgomery’s works and the positive response to her message in Japan, as demonstrated by charitable initiatives bearing Anne’s name. After the Q and A session and a short coffee break, the conference attendees were invited to a special film screening of Looking for Anne(2009), a bilingual (English/Japanese) film that bridges Japan and Canada with a multi-generational love story of Japanese women and their relationships to Anne Shirley—and to Gilbert Blythe.

Then came the time for the conference’s main social event: the banquet reception at the Grand Park Hotel Luxueux Minami Kashiwa. Following greetings and toast by Hisayuki Hikage, president of the Reitaku Society for American and British Cultures, the assembled presenters and attendees enjoyed an evening of delicacies, drinks and stimulating conversation. Rumour has it that a few merry guests, eager to pursue their immersion into Japanese culture, carried on the revelry into a nearby karaoke bar…

On Sunday, June 23rd, the second and final day of the conference kicked off with a keynote speech by Norie Yazu, from Kanda University of International Studies, who serves as vice-president of the Japanese Association for Canadian Studies. After being introduced by Toshihiro Tanaka, from Reitaku University and also vice-president of the Japanese Association for Canadian Studies, Yazu covered in great detail 90 years of mostly happy, fruitful diplomatic relations between Canada and Japan, concluding on one of the most positive outcome of this friendship: Anne’s breakthrough and tremendous success in Japan. 

Attending the keynote speech was surprise guest Yuko Matsumoto, prolific author and translator of the first complete and annotated edition of Anne of Green Gables in Japanese. After the morning coffee break, Matsumoto explained how her deep appreciation of Muraoka’s translation prompted her to offer the Japanese audience Montgomery’s complete text enriched with information ranging from the political to the botanical, effectively changing the perspective on Anne in Japan, now viewed less as a children’s book and more as a “piece of early 20thcentury Canadian literature.” 

The morning concluded with the third panel of the conference, “L.M. Montgomery and Translation.” The first presenter, Susan Erdmann from the University of Agder in Kristiansand (Norway), examined the lasting success of a truncated 1940s Norwegian translation of Anne of Green Gables in which the translator, a prominent social activist, altered or removed numerous passages focusing on religion and on Anne’s romantic fantasies and feminine vanities in an attempt to align the heroine with her own ideology. 

Next, Laura Leden from the University of Helsinki (Finland), explored how the Swedish and Finnish translations of the Emily trilogy, targeted to a child audience, erased some of the heroine’s more unconventional traits and elements, such as sexual allusions and intertextual references that appealed to the cross-generational public of the original text. 

Finally, I—Audrey Loiselle— from the Translation Bureau of Canada, highlighted the unsung feats of seemingly ultra-conventional Rachel Lynde and explored the significance of a character like Mrs. Lynde in societies where particular geographic and linguistic barriers may have slowed progress with regards to the status of women.

After lunch break, the audience was treated to a performance by former and current members of the Reitaku University English Drama Group, who presented an excerpt of “Shunkan”, a tragic drama adapted from a 17th-century Kabuki play. 

Then came time for the fourth and last panel of the conference, entitled “L.M. Montgomery and Popular Consumer Culture.” The first speaker, Yukari Yoshihara, from the University of Tsukuba (Japan), introduced a stunned audience to the manga/anime series Bungo Stray Dogs, which depicts Montgomery as a cruel puppet master who nonetheless shares a trait with the real Montgomery and her redhead creation: a powerful imagination that allows them to overcome trauma. 

Next up was Hisayuki Hikage, from Reitaku University (Japan), who explored different examples of commodification and commercialization in the Anne series, notably the baking powder essay contest incident in Anne of the Island, and related them to Montgomery’s own navigating of the market demand in the building of her identity as a professional writer. 

Finally, Carolin Sandner, an independent scholar from Germany, showed how Anne’s search for a home and identity of her own resonates strongly with young fan creators from everywhere, who use Montgomery’s original text or its adaptations as a source to artistically explore issues that matter to them and expose them to the world. 

As the conference wrapped up, Collins and vice-president of Reitaku University, Shin Watanabe, thanked the presenters and the audience, as well as the student assistants and everybody who contributed to the success of this first conference on L.M. Montgomery and Canadian literature at Reitaku University. The organizers and attendees hope that this will be the first of many such Montgomery events in Japan, and all hoped that opportunities to collaborate, publish, and meet again would soon be forthcoming.