Vyjayanthi Ratnam Selinger

Associate Professor of Asian Studies

Teaching this semester

ASNS 1020. Japanese Animation: History, Culture, Society

Animation is a dominant cultural force in Japan and perhaps its most important cultural export. Examines the ways Japanese animation represents Japan's history and society and the diverse ways in which it is consumed abroad. How does animation showcase Japanese views of childhood, sexuality, national identity, and gender roles? How does its mode of story-telling build upon traditional pictorial forms in Japan? Focuses on the aesthetic, thematic, social, and historical characteristics of Japanese animation films; provides a broad survey of the place of animation in twentieth-century Japan. Films include “Grave of Fireflies,” “Spirited Away,” “Ghost in the Shell,” “Akira,” and “Princess Kaguya.”

JPN 2203. Intermediate Japanese I

An intermediate course in modern Japanese language, with introduction of advanced grammatical structures, vocabulary, and characters. Continuing emphasis on acquisition of well-balanced language skills based on an understanding of the actual use of the language in the Japanese sociocultural context. Introduces an additional 100 kanji.

Vyjayanthi Ratnam Selinger is a scholar of Japanese literature and culture. Born and raised in India, she moved to the United States to pursue doctoral work in Japanese literature and culture. Her research examines literary representations of conflict in medieval Japan, using conflict as the key node to examine war memory, legal and ritual constaints on war, Buddhist mythmaking, and women in war. At Bowdoin College, her courses range from medieval to modern topics, including Japanese animation, samurai culture, monster culture, and Japanese WWII memory.

She is the author of the book Authorizing the Shogunate: Ritual and Material Culture in the Literary Construction of Warrior Order (Leiden: Brill, 2013.) An active scholar in both Japan and the United States, she publishes and makes presentations in both languages. Her current book project, The Law in Letters: The Legal Imagination of Medieval Japanese Literature, for which she was awarded the Fulbright CORE Scholar Award, examines how medieval writings exploit the dramatic tensions of legal disputes. As a scholar of Indian origin, she has a long-standing interest in cross-cultural flows between India and Japan, and is also working on a project entitled “Transforming the Ramayana: The Chaste Sita in Hobutsushū and Beyond,” which investigates the transcultural travel of the heroine of India’s most famous epic.

From 2015 to 2018, Dr. Selinger served on the executive committee for the Modern Language Association's Forum on Japanese Literature to 1900.

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  • Ph.D., Cornell , 2007
  • M.A. , Harvard, 1998
  • B.A., Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1994



Authorizing the Shogunate: Ritual and Material Symbolism in the Literary Construction of Warrior Order in Medieval Japan.  Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Book project in progress

The Law in Letters: The Legal Imagination of Medieval Japanese Literature (Abstract)

Forthcoming Articles

“Tale of the Heike: War, Violence, and Historical Narrative in Medieval Japan” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to World Literature Vol 3, edited by Ken Seigneuire and Christopher Lupke. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Accepted for publication; publication expected in 2019.

Published Articles 

『平家物語』に見られる馬の文学的象徴性  in「文学研究の未来を切り拓く」笠間書院, 2018.  (“The Literary Symbolism of the Horse in the Heike monogatari,” in Bungaku kenkyū no mirai o kirinuku. Tokyo: Kasama Shoin, 2018.

『平家物語』に見られる背景としての飢饉―木曾狼藉と猫間殿供応・頼朝饗宴の場面を通して 松尾葦江編『文化現象としての源平盛衰記』笠間書院、135-149. 2015(日本語)

Ogino Anna, “Uchi no okan ga ocha wo nomu (Mama Drinks Her Tea),” trans. Vyjayanthi Selinger, in More Stories by Japanese Women Writers: An Anthology, ed. Noriko Mizuta and Kyoko Selden (New York, M. E. Sharpe, 2011), 102-126.

“The Sword Trope and the Birth of the Shogunate: Historical Metaphors in Muromachi Japan,” Japanese Language and Literature 43 (2009)

Reprinted by invitation: 「換喩から提喩へ:「剣の巻」における歴史の形象」ハルオ・シラネ編『日本文学からの批評理論  アンチエディプス・物語社会・ジャンル』笠間書院、156-170. 2009(日本語)

「換喩から提喩へ:「剣の巻」における歴史の形象 」國文學 : 解釈と教材の研究 52(15), 6-15. 2007(日本語)

Book Review

Vyjayanthi R. Selinger. "Perfumed Sleeves and Tangled Hair: Body, Woman, and Desire in Medieval Japanese Narratives by Rajyashree Pandey (review)." Monumenta Nipponica 72, no. 2 (2017): 281-286.
Articles in preparation/under review

“Blood, death, and pollution in the Heike monogatari,"

“Reading the Ramayana in Japan: Two Conjectures on World Literature” (article)


Invited Talks

  • "War without Blood? The Curious Itinerary of a Taboo Fluid," Harvard University, November 2018.
  • “War without Blood? The Literary Uses of a Taboo Fluid,” Kyoto Centre of the École Française d’Extrême-Orient, April 17, 2018.
  • “Blood and the Body in Medieval Japan,” University of California at Los Angeles, April 17, 2017
  • “Medieval War Tales,” Williams College, March 9, 2017.
  • “War, Violence, and Narrative in Medieval Japan.” University of California, Irvine, April 3, 2014.
  • “Authorizing the Shogunate: War, Violence, and Narrative in Medieval Japan.” New Directions in Medieval and Early Japan Studies, Workshop at University of Southern California, April 4, 2014.
  • 母として、巫女としての建礼門院の六道語り(Kenreimon’in’s rokudō gatari as mother and as medium) Kokugakuin University, Tokyo, July 2013.
  • “The Fables of Warrior Power in the Heike monogatari,” University of Massachusetts, Boston, November 2012.
  • 馬が表象する「平家物語」(Horses and the domestication of warrior power of the Heike monogatari), Kokugakuin University, Tokyo, February 2012.
  • 「剣の巻の方法」(Discursive construction in the Tsurugi no maki), Kokugakuin University, Tokyo, June 2010.
  • “Deciphering a meal: Culinary hospitality and warrior power in the Heike monogatari,” Tales of the Heike: Variation, Canonization, Translation and Japan’s Epic, Conference at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), November 2009.
  • “食う義仲と食われる義仲:読み本系平家物語諸本における義仲の蜂起を形象する飲食の比喩 (The alimentary domination of the ravenous Yoshinaka: The topos of food in the yomi-hon texts of the Heike monogatari),” New Research into the Genpei jōsuiki, Kokugakuin University, October 2009.

Conference Presentations

  • "Moralizing Justice on the Medieval Japanese Noh Stage," Medieval Unfreedoms Conference, Binghampton University, October 2018
  • “Gendering the Revenge Plot: Law and the Family in the medieval tale Akimichi,” Modern Languages Association, January 2016.
  • "War 'ritualized, aestheticized and subjected to rules': The disavowal of violence in the Heike monogatari," European Association of Japanese Studies, August 2014.
  • “Blood, Death and Pollution in the Heike Monogatari.” Roundtable on “Revisiting the Female Body in Medieval Japan: Textual, Religious, Historical, and Scholarly Configurations of Corporality “ at Annual Conference of the Association of Asian Studies, Philadelphia, March 27-30, 2014.
  • “Envisioning Female Salvation: Dream Revelation, Virtual Travel, and Karmic Overcoming in the Heike Monogatari’s Kanjō no maki,” Annual Conference of the Association of Asian Studies, San Diego, March 2013.
  • Roundtable Presenter, “Traditions of Contestation in Pre-modern Japan.” State University of New York, New Paltz, September 28, 2012.
  • “The Father-Lord-Son Plot in the Noh play Shichi-ki ochi: The littoral chronotope in Noh Drama” European Association of Japanese Studies, Tallinn, August 2011
  • Roundtable Presenter, "Medieval War Tales and their Reception," Asian Studies Conference in Japan, Tokyo, June 2010.
  • Conference Organizer and Presenter: “The Heike monogatari and Manuscript Textuality: Telling the Birth of the Shogunate in Fourteenth-century Japan,” Text and Context in Medieval Japanese Studies: An Interdisciplinary Conference, Bowdoin College, May 2009.
  • Panel Organizer and Presenter: “Parodies of Power: Comic play and hidden politics in narratives of Kiso no Yoshinaka,” Annual Conference of the Association of Asian Studies, Chicago, March 2009.
  • “Blind Spots: The Gempei War Tales and the Claims of History,” International Symposium: The Possibility of Literary Theory in Japanese Literature, Harvard University, August 2007.
  • “The Minamoto Clan as Sacred Sword: Myths of War-Making in the Muromachi Period,” Annual Meeting of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, October 2006.
  • “History and Narrative,” Interdisciplinary Roundtable “Lost and Found in Translation,” Cornell University Society for the Humanities, Ithaca, November 2004.
  • “Shifting Ground: Bandō in the Narrative Topography of the Heike Corpus,” Panel: “A Sense of Place: Medieval visions of Kamakura,” Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for Japanese Literary Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, October 2004.
  • “Kenreimon’in and Performance in the Heike monogatari,” Panel: “Women, Religion, and Performance in Japan,” Asian Studies Conference Japan, Sophia University, Tokyo, June 2004.

Awards and National Fellowships

  • Japan Foundation Research Fellowship, August 2017-April 2018 (declined)
  • Fulbright Core Scholar Award, August 2017-April 2018
  • Japan Foundation Research Fellowship, Spring-Summer 2010
  • Japan Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Jun. 2002—Feb. 2003
  • Joseph Fletcher Memorial Award for Excellence in writing of the M.A thesis, Harvard University, June 1998
  • The Japan Foundation Study Tour Award for Outstanding Foreign Students of the Japanese Language, 1994
  • Japanese Government (Mombusho) Scholarship in Japanese Studies, Nagoya University, 1994-1995



Pedagogical Initiatives

Japan and the Environment

Museum Exhibition

Museum Exhibition

Research and Teaching Interests

Research Interests

  • War and/in literature
  • Law and Literature
  • Ritual and material culture studies
  • Buddhism and gender
  • Sexuality and subjectivity in literature
  • Language pedagogy and curriculum development

Teaching Areas

  • The Monstrous and the Fantastic in Japanese Literature
  • Literature of World War II and the Atomic Bomb: History, Memory, and Empire
  • Samurai in History, Fiction, and Film
  • Japanese Animation and Popular Culture
  • Modern Japanese Literature and Film