Seminar in Osaka on 3 August: T.S. Eliot in Singapore/Furukawa Hideo and the Imagination of Place

Yone Sugita's picture
August 3, 2015
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Humanities, Japanese History / Studies, American History / Studies

28 July 2015

from: Yone Sugita (

subject: Seminar in Osaka on 3 August: T.S. Eliot in Singapore/Furukawa Hideo and the Imagination of Place

You are cordially welcome to the following seminar held at Osaka University on 3 August 2015. 


Osaka University Projects for Promoting International Joint Research

Cultural and Humanities Joint Laboratory, Seminar

Date: 3 August 2015 (Monday)

Time: 14:00 – 18:00

Venue: Presentation Room, 1st floor, Building B, Osaka University Minoh Campus (Access map) (#2: Building B)


14:00-14:05: opening remarks

14:05 – 15:15: session 1 (Dr. Eriko Ogihara-Schuck)

15:15 – 15:35: break

15:35 – 16:45: session 2 (Professor Doug Slaymaker) 

17:00-18:00: reception (light supper)


Session 1:

Moderator: Professor Doug Slaymaker

Presenter: Dr. Eriko Ogihara-Schuck (Lecturer, TU Dortmund University, Germany)

Discussants: Professor John Clammer (Visiting Professor, United Nations University)

and Professor Etsuko Taketani(Professor, University of Tsukuba)


T.S. Eliot in Singapore: Francis P. Ng’s F.M.S.R. and Malayan Modernism

Dr Eriko Ogihara-Schuck

TU Dortmund University, Germany


Francis P. Ng’s F.M.S.R. (1937), a book-length poem modelled after T.S. Eliot’s seminal modernist work The Waste Land (1922), is maybe the first notable work of English poetry produced in Singapore by a local writer. But this poetic narrative of travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur on the Federated Malay States Railways has yet to gain general readership. During World War II its London-based publisher lost publication information, including the author’s whereabouts, in the bombing. As a result, F.M.S.R., though regularly named in encyclopedias as a pioneering piece in Singaporean literature, had long remained an “orphan work” without known copyright holders who could permit republication. Today the text is virtually inaccessible and available in only five libraries worldwide.

The discovery of the author’s identity and true name, however, opened an avenue for the poem’s republication. The subsequent digital search, archival research and a newspaper quest for the author’s descendants enabled the resolution of the poem’s copyright issues and provided the author’s biographical information for this hitherto mysterious work of literature. As part of the process toward the forthcoming republication, this presentation will introduce the audience to the challenges and potentials of archival research on early twentieth century Singaporean literature heretofore clouded by the lingering effects of the Japanese occupation of Singapore between 1942 and 1945.

     The textual analysis will shed light on the role that the United States plays in the encounter of the East and the West which is F.M.S.R.’s overarching theme. Although taking a rather subtle appearance, the presence of America in terms of themes, products as well as poetic styles, remarkably complicates the colonial power politics of British Malaya as portrayed in this poem. Against the backdrop of the British subject T.S. Eliot’s ambivalence toward America in both his personal identity and his literary texts, a close reading of F.M.S.R. will probe the location and function of the imagined America in early Malayan modernism.




Session 2:

Moderator: Dr. Eriko Ogihara-Schuck

Presenter: Professor Doug Slaymaker (Professor at University of Kentucky and

Specially-appointed professor at Osaka University)

Discussants: Professor Hideto Tsuboi (Professora at International Research Center for Japanese Studies)

           Professor Anne McKnight (Associate professor at Shirayuri College)


“Horses in Tōhoku, Horses in Kentucky: Furukawa Hideo and the Imagination of Place”

Furukawa Hideo’s novel-length Umatachi yo, sore demo hikari wa muku de (Horses, Horses, in the Innocence of Light) is compelling and important for all the reasons that it can be exasperating and demanding. It is rooted in the triple disasters of 3.11—the earthquake, tsunami, and then nuclear meltdown in northeast Japan, of March 11, 2011—but it quickly becomes a place for Furukawa to work out other, important, themes and questions. Among them, and the focus of this presentation, is the place of Tohoku in his imagination of Japan and Japanese history. My point of reference is as a reader and scholar based in Kentucky, USA, which like Tohoku, is a place with complicated and often violent relationships with the centers of power. Further, Kentucky is known for long traditions with horses and with story-telling to make sense of its history. I will draw from the rich traditions of writing in both places as a means to consider these questions of place, history, and story telling.


Horses, Horses does not fit neat genre categories. Furukawa’s farming family was in Fukushima prefecture when the disasters struck, but he was not: on March 11, Furukawa, who is based in Tokyo, was in Kyoto gathering materials for a novel. The roundtrip narrative that organizes Horses, Horses becomes a continued exploration of location—Tohoku. The path to that extended discussion is oblique, multidimensional, and multivocal. Horses, Horses opens, for example, in media res of another novel; this marks only the first instance where Furukawa’s major 2008 novel, Seikazoku (Holy Family), muscles its way into the narrative. Holy Family, the other novel (as it is often referred to), is a sprawling work that traces the convoluted story line of two brothers as they move around the Tohoku region, the same region, that is, of Furukawa’s family lineage and the 3.11 disasters, the “‘North’ plus ‘East’ [that] adds up to Tohoku,” (p. 2). Holy Family was completed and in print years prior March 2011, but it was clearly still much on the mind of the author Furukawa. The brothers’ story simultaneously traces contours of Japan’s Northeast, of Tohoku, both in Horses, Horses and in Holy Family. This is one way that the atmosphere of Horses, Horses is thick with multiple voices and challenging perspectives. The work owes much to magical realism in its conflation of temporalities and voices, of time and space. It also reflects the fierce history of a rugged region in the shadow of the national, urban, controlling capital of Tokyo. These are among the ways that readers are led to think of William Faulkner or Nakagami Kenji. It is also at this juncture that the concept of the “Global South” is provocative to think about this non-Tokyo space and also, for a parallax reading, to bring in an instance of the American south, namely the Kentucky fiction of Silas House. In this presentation I will focus on Furukawa’s Horses, Horses to explore the imagination of place in Northeastern Japan, the uses of fiction to structure histories and sense of place, and to think more widely about the applicability of this Japan-based writer to consider fiction of rural US.

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