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Emeritus' Letters Offer a Glimpse of Post-War Japan

August 26, 2014

Kristine Dennehy, professor of history, will present "Post-Occupation Japan Through American Eyes," part of the Fullerton Public Library's Town and Gown series, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9. The presentation is based on more than 100 letters written by the late Joan Greenwood, professor emeritus of English and comparative literature, and her husband, John, when they lived in Japan from 1957 through 1959.

The letters provide insight on the social and political changes in post-World War II Japan. Greenwood was then a graduate student teaching at Kobe Women's College.

"She said she had more opportunities to be creative and to further her intellectual agenda and those of the students in Japan, compared to California," says Dennehy, who adds that Greenwood was ahead of her time.

"Their marriage was really a genuine intellectual partnership. To see how marriage could be in the '50s ... it overturns some stereotypes of the June Cleaver housewife. It really tells us what women were doing."

An excerpt:

June 7, 1958: "... we are planning a simple buffet for the people who work with John.... I have told John to say no married Japanese man may come without his wife unless she is ill or away; I won't welcome anyone to my home who perpetuates such reactionary social policies, because while old women have long since accepted such things, younger women hate them."

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