Quarter Abroad Japan - Instructor

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Language and Culture in Japan

UC Davis Study Abroad, Instructor Photo

David Gundry

Japanese, East Asian Languages & Cultures

A California native who grew up in the Chicago area and received a B.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, David J. Gundry first became acquainted with Japan during a three-year stint on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program in the temple-studded lakeside town of Otsu, Shiga, located a short train ride to the east of Kyoto. During his three years in JET, he studied Japanese language in Japan’s former capital and spent many a weekend taking in the myriad cultural and historical sights on offer there and in the surrounding area. After earning an M.A. in Japanese Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, he pursued a Ph.D. in Japanese Literature at Stanford University, spending four of his Stanford years in Japan, first in Yokohama at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies and then conducting research at Waseda University in Tokyo. After graduating in 2009, Gundry taught for one year at Harvard as a College Fellow, then took a position at the University of California, Davis, where he was granted tenure in 2017. His book Parody, Irony and Ideology in the Fiction of Ihara Saikaku was published by Brill in that same year. He is currently working on a second book, tentatively titled Genroku Literature, as well as a translation of Ihara Saikaku’s Exemplary Tales of the Way of the Warrior (1687).

A Message to Students and Parents

One of the great pleasures of living in the Kyoto area during my first stay in Japan was to read classics of Japanese literature such as Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji and Ihara Saikaku’s Five Women Who Loved Love as they described scenes set in places I walked or rode my bike through all the time. It gave a sense of immediacy to books written centuries ago and added many layers of meaning and temporal depth to the landscapes and cityscapes I saw every day.

Perhaps that is one reason why, when eventually I entered graduate school, I focused my studies on classical Japanese and the literature written in it. As my dissertation topic I chose the fiction of Ihara Saikaku (1642–1693), the bulk of which is set in the region encompassing Kyoto and nearby Osaka, which had served over a thousand years earlier as the cradle of Japanese high culture and, in Saikaku’s time, saw rapid commercial development and the emergence of the new urban lifestyles it fueled and that Saikaku chronicled in gripping and often hilarious stories and novels.

Directing and teaching with UC Davis’s Kyoto Quarter Abroad will be a homecoming for me, bringing me back to a city I came to know first through direct experience, then through books. I greatly look forward to sharing with my students perspectives on this fascinating, beautiful place provided by both.