Marcus bids farewell, Decades of wisdom imparted, Haikus filled with grace

Wednesday, December 6, 2023, Dr. Marvin Marcus taught his last class at Washington University, concluding a career that has spanned over three decades. His last class capped the course “Reminiscences of Childhood and Youth in Japanese Literature.”  During the semester, students explored both fictive and autobiographical accounts of childhood and youth in narrative and verse, a favorite topic of Marcus’s, who has published widely on personal narratives and life writing in modern Japanese literature. 

Students in the class were surprised by the wealth and variety of reminiscences Marcus introduced. Addison Kwasigroch (EALC MA) noted that before taking the course, he had thought of the genre as less literary and more historical. Under Dr. Marcus’s guidance, however, his understanding changed. “I now feel that I can read these genres in an entirely new way, and am much more sensitive to the literary and aesthetic considerations involved in the act of reminiscing about one’s own past.” 

Marvin Marcus’s last class included the professor’s own reminiscences on his development as a scholar of Japanese literature and an observer of life. An accomplished photographer as well as a poet, Marcus ended this last class with a slideshow culled from his many travels, from his boyhood in Maryland to treks through Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1970s and later trips to Portugal and Greece. Student Iris Hahn-Sitting (EALC PhD) described this photo journey as “extremely moving.” She also observed that Professor Marcus ended his account with a humorous personal reminiscence about teaching in Kyoto, which incorporated haiku and waka.  “He said he wanted to go out on a poetic note.” And so he did.