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Faculty Profiles

Helen J.S. Lee
  • Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Postcolonial Studies, Underwood International College, Yonsei University
  • Assistant Professor, University of Florida, 2003-2008
  • Ph.D. in Modern Japanese Literature, University of California, Irvine
  • M.A. in Asian Studies, Cornell University
  • B.A. in Japanese, Washington University, St Louis

Email: helenlee@yonsei.ac.kr
Tel: 02-2123-3587
Office: Daewoo Annex Hall 403


Professor Lee has her Bachelor’s degree from Washington University, Master’s degree from Cornell University, and Ph.D from U.C. Irvine. Professor Lee has taught at UIC since 2008. And although words have spread through Theology Hall and New Millennium Hall that there is a lot of reading for her class, she has been quite well received by the students. They describe her as a kind, enthusiastic professor who makes learning about Japan and Japanese literature an unique ex­perience.


Ph.D. in Modern Japanese Literature, University of California, Irvine
M.A. in Asian Studies, Cornell University
B.A. in Japanese Studies, Washington University

Courses and Current Research Areas

Courses taught at UIC

World Literature:
Modern Japanese Literature
Postwar Japanese Literature

World History:
Modern Japanese History
War, Memory and Pop Culture

UIC Seminars:
Theories of Postcolonialism in East Asian
Theories on Gender, Sexuality and the Body
Visual Culture

Selected Publications


-Keun Sik Jung, Helen J.S. Lee, Young Shin Jung and Min Hwan Kim, Besieged Peace, Refracted War Memory: A Study of Kure, the Naval Port of Hiroshima Bay  (P’owidoen p’yonghwa, kulj?ldoen ch?njaeng ki?k: Hiroshima man ?i kunhang tosi kurye y?ngu), J&C Publishing, May 2015.
-Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context, and Critique, StanfordUniversity, February 2012.
Co-edited with Michele M. Mason

  • “Unending Stories of the Battleship Yamato:Narrating the Past, Creating a Phantom,” The Journal of Japanese Language and Literature, Vol. 50, No. 2, October 2016.
  • “일본문학에서 자이니치(在日) 읽기:오다 마코토(小田?)의 ??アボジ?を踏む?가 제시하는 아버지, 그리고 고향 (Reading ‘Zainichi’ in Oda Makoto’s “Stomping Father),”
  • 일본학 (Japan Studies), Vol. 41, Dong’guk University, Nov 2015.
  • “Negotiating Imagined Imperial Kinship:Affects and Comfort Letters of Korean Children,” The Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1, June 2014.
  • “Dying as Daughter of the Empire,” positions: asia critique, Vol.21, Issue 1, Spring 2013.
  • “나카지마 아츠시의 조선소설: 식민지 도시공간 ‘경성’을 중심으로 (Nakajima Atsushi’s Fictional Creation of Colonial Kyungs?ng),” Korean Studies, Vol. 28, October, 2012.
  • “Out of S?desuka-shi, Creating Yobo-san: Cartooning the Korean Other in Japan’s Colonial Discourse,” Journal of Japanese Language and Literature, Vol 45, Issue 1, April 2011.
  • “Imperial Classrooms and Its Borders, “ Japan Studies, Vol. 30, Dong’guk University, May, 2010.
  • “Phantoms of the Battleship Yamato: The Battleship, Pop Culture, and Making of Popular Memory,” Japan Critique, Issue 2, Seoul National University, February 2010.
  • “Writing Colonial Relations of Everyday Life in Senry?,” positions: east asia cultures critique, Vol. 16, Issue 3, Winter 2009.
  • “Voices of the “Colonists,” Voices of the “Immigrants:” “Korea” in Japan’s Early Colonial Travel Narratives and Guides, 1894-1914,” Japanese Literature and Language, Spring 2007.

More Information

UIC Scribe Interview: 

Q1. How did you know about, and come to UIC?

PROFESSOR LEE : My father is a graduate of Yonsei (en­tered in 1958!), so I am very familiar with the campus. In fact, I came to the Yonsei summer program in 1988.


Q2. What previous experience have you had as a professor?

PROFESSOR LEE : I was assistant professor of Japa­nese literature at the University of Florida, from fall of 2003 to spring of 2008.


Q3. How did you become interested in Japanese literature?

PROFESSOR LEE : Very coincidentally. Through a stu­dent in an intensive summer language program in Tokyo (1989) I started reading an ‘I-Novel’ (Japanese novel genre) by Ito Sachio. It was a beautiful story about first love, and the narrative was so powerful (I thought at the time). I still remember how I was so drawn to the story. When I went back to school in the fall I started taking classes in Japa­nese literature, and ended up majoring in it.

My father disapproved of my choice of major in col­lege—majoring in Japanese literature did not quite fit the “American Dream” he had in mind. My father and I had a huge argument over this issue in my junior year, and we did not communicate for a long time. Born in 1935, he had been educated under the Japanese colonial rule, and could not understand why his daughter would choose to study Japanese in America. It was not until 2003, the year when I earned my doctorate degree in Japanese literature and secured a teaching position, that I felt I had been redeemed by my father.


Q4. What qualities do you think make a good student?

PROFESSOR LEE : I would say ‘intellectual curiosity’ and ‘commitment and self-discipline.’ Actually, these two criteria complement each other.


Q5. Are you enjoying your experience with UIC students?

PROFESSOR LEE : I have only been at UIC for 2 months now, so I am still making adjustments – I am sure my stu­dents will second this statement. My students are very po­lite and nice, so they have eased my institutional and cul­tural transition.


Q6. What do you do in your research time? (Academically focused)

PROFESSOR LEE : I am a scholar of postcolonial stud­ies, and my research area is Imperial Japan. Specifically my project focuses on Japan’s colonization of Korea. I spend my free time (=research) reading the archival sources from the colonial period and writing my manuscript – not much different from what you do as a student.


Q7. What do you do to relax?

PROFESSOR LEE : I am a student and a fan of Korean dance, the Chum (fortune-telling), and I am currently learning the Salpuri (type of traditional dance).

PROFESSOR LEE : I studied with our Dean Lee in 1989 at the International Christian University’s intensive sum­mer language program in Tokyo. Dean Lee was one of the few graduate students in the program who was also mar­ried, so most of us called him “Lee-sama” to pay our re­spect to a “grown-up” classmate.

Professor Lee’s classes are one of the most interest­ing and fascinating lectures in UIC. For students who have interest in Japan, a class in Japanese literature or history in the following semester might be quite fulfilling. Or, if you need to take another history or literature class, why not take an adventure and learn about something that has some distance from the well-known West? The experience may just open your eyes to other cultures

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