Strong, Sarah M. ( Emeritus)

Professor Emerita of Japanese Language and Literature

Sarah M. Strong is Professor of Japanese Language and Literature and a member of the Bates Asian Studies faculty. She is currently entering her planned retirement from teaching and will transition to emeritus status in the summer of 2015.  She has served on the board of the Associated Kyoto Program and is also a research associate at the Reischaurer Institute at Harvard University. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Japanese Literature from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in History from Oberlin College.

As a scholar and translator, Strong has focused on works that portray Japan’s natural beauty and rich ecosystems.  The scope of her inquiry includes oral traditions of the Ainu, an indigenous people of the northern part of the Japanese archipelago, as well as works of written literature by ethnic Japanese writers.  Strong’s most recent book, Ainu Spirits Singing: The Living World of Chiri Yukie’s Ainu shin’yôshû (University of Hawai’i Press, 2011) examines the animistic world-view that informs much of Ainu tradition.  The book also presents a complete translation of Chiri Yukie’s landmark collection of kamui yukar chants told in the first-person voice by animal narrators.  Strong is currently working on a translation of additional oral traditions recorded by Chiri in her 1921 notebook.

Strong has also worked extensively on Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933), a writer from northern Japan who expresses a vivid and distinctly animistic relationship with the natural world in his poems and stories.  Her translations of Miyazawa have appeared in both the US and Japan and include selections from Miyazawa’s first poetry collection, as well as six of his short stories and two novellas.  Her most recent translations are available in Masterworks of Miyazawa Kenji: Poems and Fairy Tales (Tokyo: Sunmark, 2002).  She is planning a re-edition of her 1991 translation of Miyazawa visionary tale Ginga tetsudô no yoru (Night of the milky way railway).  Strong’s articles on the medieval legends of Ono no Komachi have appeared in numerous journals such as Women and Performance and Monumenta Nipponica.

Strong’s teaching has included a broadly based survey course on Japanese literature and society together with more focused courses on topics in premodern and modern Japanese literature including, haiku poetry, women writers, and the fantastic. She regularly offered courses in the Japanese language program, as well as on literature and the environment. She co-directed four fall-semester programs to Japan.