Press Room

William Fleming to speak on samurai at Georgia Museum of Art

Monday, November 9, 2015

William Fleming, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures and Theater Studies, Yale University, will speak at 5:30 p.m. this Thursday at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia. Fleming’s talk, which is titled, “American Samurai: A Teenager’s Journey from New England to the Satsuma Rebellion,” is in conjunction with the exhibition “Samurai: The Way of the Warrior” and is free and open to the public.

From 1603 to 1868, Japan was governed by the Tokugawa shoguns and the samurai warrior class over which they presided, and the country shut itself off from the outside world for much of this period. This enforced isolation came to an abrupt end in 1854, when Commodore Matthew Perry of the US Navy, sent by President Millard Fillmore, appeared in Edo (Tokyo) Bay and forced the opening of Japan. By acceding to Perry’s demands, the shogunate undermined its own authority, and in 1868 a new government took its place. This major political transformation, known as the Meiji Restoration, spelled the end of the samurai class.

In 1877, samurai in Japan’s south made one last stand against the new Meiji government. The rebels who died in this conflict, known as the Satsuma Rebellion, have been romanticized in the Japanese imagination almost from the moment they took up arms. On this side of the Pacific, the conflict was freely reimagined on the big screen in “The Last Samurai,” with Tom Cruise portraying a fictional American veteran who throws in his lot with the cause. Fighting alongside rebel leader Saigō Takamori was a real-life commander, fresh from America, whose forgotten story is every bit as remarkable as the one dreamed up by Hollywood. Relying on previously unexplored archival materials from collections in the United States and Japan, this talk brings to life the untold tale of a teenage warrior whose bravery and determination in battle earned him the nickname “Little Saigō.”

Fleming teaches premodern and early modern Japanese literature, theater, and cultural history. His research focuses on 18th- and 19th-century Japanese fiction and the popular stage. He completed his undergraduate and graduate study at Harvard and has spent time as a visiting researcher at Kyoto University and the National Institute of Japanese Literature in Tokyo. Before joining the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Theater Studies program, he was a postdoctoral associate at the Council on East Asian Studies.

The lecture is cosponsored by UGA Army ROTC. It will be followed by the museum’s Student Night (at 6 p.m.), a demonstration by UGA Kendo (at 7 p.m.) and a screening of Akira Kurosawa’s film “The Hidden Fortress” (at 7:30 p.m.), all of which are also free and open to the public. All of these events are in conjunction with UGA’s 2015 Spotlight on the Arts festival, which runs through November 14.

Museum Information
Partial support for the exhibition and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on UGA’s East Campus. The address is 90 Carlton Street, Athens, GA, 30602-1502. For more information, including hours, see georgiamuseum.org or call 706.542.4662.

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