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Student Spotlight: Nathaniel Bond

May 11, 2018

Please introduce yourself.

I’m a PhD candidate in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at UW. I came here after doing and MA at Portland State University, and hope to someday become a professor of Japanese language or literature. My passions are teaching, humor, canoeing, pickling, my cats, my dogs, my fish, cooking, and gardening. I also recently got a good vacuum cleaner, and find that I kind of like vacuuming.

Why did you choose to study Japan/Japanese?

I started studying Japanese because I went abroad to Japan after high school, and became interested in learning the language. I pursued that interest during my undergraduate years, and after going abroad to do a semester of language work at JCMU (Japan Center for Michigan Universities) I worked as a guide at the 2005 World’s Fair in Aichi, Japan. I chose Japanese because I enjoyed studying it, and because my abroad experiences had been so meaningful.

Would you say that you have changed (intellectually, personally, etc.) as a result of your involvement in Japan Studies at UW?

I would say so, yes. I’ve become more serious about my studies. I have also started taking the work of others into greater consideration. Before coming to UW I thought that scholarship is nothing more than elaborated fancy – taking one’s idea and following it along to see where it goes. To a certain degree, this is true. But one’s early work must entail a certain degree of contextualization and conversation, and UW helped me better appreciate that fact.

Please describe your current roles as teacher and graduate student.

As a teacher I am currently leading two quiz sections of first year Japanese. I grade homework, quizzes, hold office hours, and in every respect operate as a typical Teaching Assistant. As a graduate student, I am currently working on a dissertation on postwar Japanese humor.

What is the focus of your current research?

Postwar Japanese Literary Dark Humor. I am interested in those things that we laugh at despite ourselves, whether because of the setting or the material itself. However, discussions of Japanese literature generally don’t touch upon humor at all, let alone controversial/inappropriate material. I am interested in how people (in this case, Japanese readers and writers) laughed after, in, and at disasters.

I’m surprised that people don’t write more about humor, teach more humor, and so on. Looking closely at what we laugh at can help us better understand our (and others’) assumptions, values, personalities, and so much more.

What are your plans after graduation?

I hope to graduate from UW with a PhD in Japanese literature, and go on to a professorship somewhere in the world. I would like to help people who are interested in Japanese culture and language to pursue their passions.

What advice would you give prospective students interested in studying about Japan/Japanese?

  • Reach out to others ASAP. Find people in the major, find people interested in the same thing you are, find TAs and teachers you get along with, and reach out to them. You’ll get important insights from other people studying similar material to yourself.
  • Have a clear reason why you’re coming here. On some level, you need to know who you want to be, and make sure that this always guides your actions.
  • Balance is key. If you truly love research, then research to your heart’s content and be careful not to let teaching overwhelm you. If you view research as work, be sure to not let it overwhelm your teaching. And, you need to have a life outside of UW that is rich and meaningful. Don’t forget – you don’t have to be “that student” – the one who does 80 hour weeks and never mis-steps. They’re probably not much fun to be around anyhow.

View Nathaniel’s Profile HERE