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An Interview with Donald Keene : From the Marlene J. Mayo Oral Histories

This post is the second in a series featuring interviews from the Marlene Mayo Oral Histories.  Currently, 29 of the oral history transcripts are available onlineThe remainder are available onsite in the Prange Collection.  For other featured posts, see this page

Donald Keene, image from Wikipedia Commons

Donald Keene in 2012 (image from Wikipedia Commons)

Today (June 18) is Donald Keene‘s birthday!

On May 14, 1982, Marlene Mayo, then Professor of History at the University of Maryland, interviewed Donald Keene, as part of her project entitled, “Oral Histories with Americans Who Served in Allied Occupied Japan.”  Keene, in fact, did not serve in Occupied Japan.  He spent one week there in December 1945 and didn’t return to Japan until 1953, after the Occupation had ended.

It is clear from the interview that Mayo had several reasons for including Keene in the project.  He was trained at the Navy Language School, where many of the Americans who served in Allied Occupied Japan learned Japanese.  She was keen on gathering as much information about the school as possible.  She was interested in his experience in Japan during the one week he spent there in 1945 and, more generally, what his impressions of the Occupation were as a Navy man.  In addition, Keene had written about immediate postwar writings in the “A History of Japanese Literature” series, which would be published not long after the interview.  Mayo wanted a preview.  In the two hours that they spoke, they covered all of those topics and more.

The transcript of the interview with Keene is available here.


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