Yoko Tawada lecture at NYU today, 2/18

New York University Department of German

Wednesdays 3:30pm – 6:10pm 

(This course meets at Deutsches Haus at NYU- 42 Washington Mews)

Poetics & Theory Seminar: Wie denken Tiere?
Yoko Tawada & Eckart Goebel

Co-taught (in German) by our DAAD-Distinguished Poetics Chair, Yoko Tawada, and Eckart Goebel, this seminar studies ‘modern classics‘ from the German literary canon, in which animals figure as protagonists. Together with Dr. Tawada, we will read E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr, Heinrich Heine’s Atta Troll, Franz Kafka’s Josefine, die Sängerin oder Das Volk der MäuseEin Bericht für eine AkademieSchakale und AraberForschungen eines Hundes, and Yoko Tawada’s Etüden im Schnee. After the end of Yoko Tawada’s time at NYU, the seminar will focus on reading Rilke’s lyrical poetry and poems in prose, focusing mainly on the Duino Elegies for the last sessions of the term. *This course will be conducted in German.


Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1960, Yoko Tawada first traveled to Germany at the age of 19 where she established permanence residency in Hamburg three years later. Written originally in Japanese, a collection of Tawada’s stories and poetry was translated into German and made an appearance soon after in 1987 under the title Nur da wo du bist da ist nichts (Only there where you are there is nothing). Since then, Tawada has published numerous stories, poetry, essays, plays both in Japanese and in German and has established a celebrated career as a contemporary literature author where she is widely noted for her intercultural style of writing for which she has experienced an exceptional amount of attention. Tawada has appeared in over 800 different publications in several countries since 1987. Among these publications are her novella Inu mukoiri (The Bridegroom Was a Dog, 1991; translated 1998), which was awarded the Akutagawa Prize in 1993, and Yogisha no yako ressha(Suspects on the Night Train), a series of linked stories, which also received the Tanizaki Junichiro Prize in 2003.

In addition to her many Japanese literary awards, Tawada is the recipient of numerous prestigious German literary awards, including the Advancement in Literature Prize (1990), the Lessing Prize (1993), the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize (1996), and the Goethe Medal (2005). She has also been a writer in residence at several universities across the U.S., including Washington University (2007), Stanford University (2008), and Cornell University (2008).

In her concise and concentrated texts, which seldom oscillate between poetic, essay-like, and treaty-like forms of writing, Tawada also focuses mainly on the exploration of the possibilities and borders of language. Through unusual word structures and sentence structures, conventional meanings and typically well-known connotations transform into foreign or even resistive figures, which demand renewed interpretations of those meanings. Tawada’s literature is frequently described as an interview of language as well as a creative word play on styles, sound forms, and complex meanings that serve as new understandings of language creations. Unlike any other contemporary literature author, Tawada also redesigns the conception of intercultural poetry with her poetic style of writing.

Yoko Tawada relocated to Berlin, Germany in 2006 and still resides there as a freelance writer.


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