Hilaria Goessmann is a professor in the Department of Japanese Studies at the University of Trier, Germany. She majored in Japanese Studies and German Literature and received her PhD from the University of Trier in 1992. She held a research position at the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo from 1992 to 1995.
Her research interest is in modern literature and popular culture with an emphasis on gender studies and intercultural research. She has written extensively on gender in Japanese TV dramas and films, some of which providing interesting comparisons to German TV dramas and film. She has also translated many works on Japanese literature. For a complete list of her works, please visit her profile page.
1) What are some of the classes that you are teaching and how do you conduct those classes?
I teach seminars on "Japanese media and society" as well as on special topics such as the "History of Japanese TV Drama", "Representation of Gender in Literature and Popular Culture", and "Intercultural Encounters in Literature and Popular Culture". In the seminars, students can choose dramas, films, manga and anime on which they give a presentation and write a paper. We also watch key scenes from dramas together and discuss them.
2) What are some of the challenges or interesting happenings that you have encountered when teaching popular culture?
Sometimes, students who are fans of Japanese popular culture initially have some problems dealing with popular culture in an academic manner. Some students who are extreme fans of Japanese TV dramas merely show scenes from an anime or drama with the comment, "This is my favourite scene," without analysing it. They may avoid talking about the end of the drama during their presentations on Japanese TV drama series, because they think it would no longer be interesting for the other students to watch the series. At times, it is quite hard to teach them to deal academically with TV dramas they are fond of. However, the fandom can also offer great potential for conducting research on popular culture, since they have a wealth of knowledge about the genre. And that can be the basis for valuable research.
3) Are your students mainly locals or foreigners? If you have a mix of both, is there a difference when teaching Japanese popular culture to both groups?
At Trier University, about 10 percent of the students are from foreign countries, 90 percent are German. For students from countries where they did not have the opportunity to become familiar with Japanese popular culture, it is more difficult to deal with manga, anime and TV dramas because they are not used to them.
4) How is Japanese studies or Japanese popular culture perceived in Germany?
In Germany today, most of the students studying Japanese Studies grew up with Japanese manga and anime. For many students, the fandom of Japanese popular culture is the primary reason they decided to major in Japanese studies at the university.
5) Do you think that this perception would change following the rise of interest in the studies of popular culture in recent years?
At least for the younger generation in Germany these days, Japan is no longer a distant country, because they have become familiar with Japan through popular culture.
6) It seems that you have done a very extensive research on topics like gender, ethnicity and cultural identities in Japanese TV dramas. What are some of the reasons which led you to choose Japanese TV dramas over other genres? Are there any other research topics that have caught your attention recently?
I have been watching Japanese TV dramas for a long time, because I grew up in Japan. That was a very helpful basis for me to start my research on this genre. Since dramas provide very good insight into Japanese society, they are valuable research and teaching materials. However, there is very little research on this genre, which motivated me to contribute to it. Beside TV dramas, I am also doing research on contemporary Japanese literature. Therefore, dramas that are based on novels are of special interest to me. Comparing the version in literature and in the form of a TV drama can help elucidate the possibilities and limitations of the different genres.
7) Finally, what are some of your hopes when teaching Japanese popular culture or Japanese studies? Do you find it meaningful in teaching and researching about Japanese studies?
Of course it is very meaningful to conduct research and teach about a different culture, such as Japanese Studies allows me to do. The students not only learn about the other culture, but they also develop cross-cultural competence, which is a very important soft skill. Furthermore, I hope that an increasing number of former students of Japanese studies who start working at different places such as media companies will contribute to overcoming old stereotypes about Japan.
The Association of Japanese popular culture in Frankfurt, Germany: CosDay
Facebook page for Japanese popular culture fans in Germany: Amazing Japan