Speaker Event via Zoom: Tuesday 24 November, 4.15 (UK), Professor Mary Chapman, University of British Columbia
Please join us on Tues 24 Nov at 4.15, when Prof Mary Chapman will give a talk, “Onoto Watanna’s Japanese Kin: Re-recovering Winnifred Eaton”. All welcome.
If you’d like to attend, email Dr Laura Rattray (Laura.Rattray@glasgow.ac.uk) and you’ll receive a secure Zoom link on the day of the talk.
“Onoto Watanna’s Japanese Kin: Re-recovering Winnifred Eaton”
Professor Mary Chapman (UBC)
Thirty-five years ago, Amy Ling initiated the recovery of Chinese-American novelist Winnifred Eaton, whom she praised for her feminist heroines, charming style, and prodigious output. But enthusiasm for the recovery of Eaton’s oeuvre was quickly tempered by the chagrin that critics felt, even in the wake of scholarship that understood identity as provisional and strategic, in response to Winnifred Eaton’s masquerade as Japanese author “Onoto Watanna.” Eaton’s posturing as the daughter of a Japanese noblewoman descended from samurai and an Englishman in the consular service–sustained for almost ten years–prompted even the most sympathetic of critics to accuse her of reinforcing anti-Chinese prejudice and to dismiss Eaton’s fiction as authored by an “armchair ethnologist” (Ferens 154) who merely “parrot[ed] conventional stereotypes” about Japanese (Cole 3). My research has uncovered that Eaton, in fact, had significant emotional and familial ties to Japan: A British uncle, who lived in Japan for about 25 years; a Japanese aunt and a half-Japanese cousin. Drawing on this Japanese connection, I trace a more balanced reading of Eaton’s 1901 novel, A Japanese Nightingale, as a nuanced depiction of an interracial, interethnic family produced, in part, by empire.