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.
The Law in Letters: The Legal Imagination of Medieval Japanese Literature (Abstract)
“Tale of the Heike: War, Violence, and Historical Narrative in Medieval Japan” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to World LiteratureVol 3, edited by Ken Seigneuire and Christopher Lupke. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020. Link to book
Selinger, Vyjayanthi. “War Without Blood? The Literary Uses of a Taboo Fluid in the Heike monogatari,” Monumenta Nipponica 74 no.1 (2019): 33-57. Link to article
“Yanagi Yukinori’s Loves me/Loves me Not,” Art Purposes: Object Lessons for the Liberal Arts, ed. Joachim Homann. (Munich: London: Bowdoin College Museum of Art and Prestel, 2019), 200-201. Link to book
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）
Rajyashree Pandey, Perfumed Sleeves and Tangled Hair: Body, Woman, and Desire in Medieval Narratives (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2016), Monumenta Nipponica, Fall 2017
“War without Blood? The Curious Itinerary of a Taboo Fluid in Medieval Japan,” University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies, May 30, 2019.
“War without Blood? The Curious Itinerary of a Taboo Fluid in Medieval Japan,” Harvard University Japan Forum, November 16, 2018.
“War without Blood? The Literary Uses of a Taboo Fluid,” at Kyoto Centre of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-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.
“The Noble Quest within the King’s Conquest: Localizing the Rāmāyana in Japan,” Premodern Japanese Studies Conference, McGill University, October 2019.
“Buddhist Spiritual Friendship and Veterans Circles: Foes, Friends and Reconciliatory Healing in Atsumoriand Gettysburg,” Symposium in Conjunction with the Premiere of Gettysburg: An American Noh, University of Pittsburgh, September 2019.
“The Prisoner and her Plea for Justice: The Legal Imagination of the Noh play Rōdaiko,” Association of Asian Studies Conference, Denver, March 23-25, 2019.
“Reading the Rāmāyana in Japan: Two Conjectures on World Literature,” Modern Languages Association Conference, Chicago, January 3-6, 2019.
“Captive on the Stage: Moralizing Justice on the Medieval Japanese Noh Stage,” Medieval Unfreedoms Conference, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Binghamton University, October 19, 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.
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