Friday, April 8th- Mika Endo


The Art and Politics of East Asia Workshop


Mika Endo

PhD Candidate

Dept. of East Asian Languages & Civilizations

The Promises of Poetry:

Writing in other-than-prose

in Working-Class Classrooms of 1930s Japan

Download Paper Here

Friday, April 8th

3:00 – 5:00pm

Judd 313

5835 S. Kimbark Ave. Chicago, IL 60637


Though most scholars suggest that prewar Japanese education was a field tightly controlled under the Ministry of Education, the 1920s and 1930s witnessed a wide range of pedagogical experiments that sought to reverse, through practice rather than policy, the social and class inequities that were reproduced through the institution of public education. Along with a desire to change society through the schools, a growing awareness grew among adults of varying political motivations to recognize children as valuable members of society in their own right: to carve out a space for them in society that went beyond regarding the young as instruments of national progress, or as nature’s antidotes to the rationalizing forces of modernization. This carving out of a space – the very process through which perceptions of childhood were forcibly altered among adults and the young alike – was driven by a new sense of urgency in the decades of the 20s and 30s among school teachers who encountered poor, working class students in rural areas classrooms. This chapter shows how modern free verse poetry, a literary form that was itself still in its historical infancy, was accorded a central role in shaping new definitions of the child. Beginning with the modern poet Kitahara Hakushu’s (1885-1942) decisive role in encouraging the production of child-authored poems, the paper explores how educators later went on to employ poetry in the classroom to engage the expressive capacities of their working class students. By placing poetry in the hands of children, teachers sought to forge a culture that reconnected with the pedagogical possibilities hidden within writing from local life and daily experience.

This workshop is sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the Council on Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Persons who believe they may need assistance to participate fully, please contact the coordinator in advance at:


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