Mar 04, 2011
In memoriam: Michael (Michele) Marra, scholar of Japanese literature and culture
Professor Michael (Michele) Marra, a prolific scholar of Japanese literature and culture, died Feb. 23 at his home in Malibu after a long battle with cancer at age 54.
Professor Marra, who held himself to the highest standards of excellence in his teaching as in his research, continued to lecture even into the final weeks of his life. An article in UCLA’s Daily Bruin, written shortly before his death, movingly recounts his decision to continue teaching in the face of terminal illness. His website also tells the full story of his life and studies.
Born in Italy and educated at the University of Turin and Washington University in St. Louis, he received his Ph.D. at UCLA in 1988. Professor Marra approached the subject of traditional Japan by way of a highly exacting interdisciplinary course of study.
The immense range of his interests and expertise is apparent in his more than 30 articles and 10 books, in addition to several translations, which address matters as diverse as medieval Japanese drama and fiction, cross-cultural poetics and 20th-entury comparative philosophy.
In his later years, Professor Marra turned more and more to questions of comparative Japanese and Western aesthetics, publishing “Essays on Japan: Between Aesthetics and Literature and Japan’s Frames of Meaning: A Hermeneutics Reader.” He organized conferences that brought together philosophers and scholars from Japan, Europe and the United States. Long mindful of the role of translation in bringing the beauty of Japanese literature to a general readership, Professor Marra published some of his final renditions from the Japanese in “Seasons and Landscapes in Japanese Poetry: An Introduction to Haiku and Waka.”
“Professor Marra’s memory will live on in the affectionate respect of his colleagues, students and friends at UCLA and around the world,” said David Schaberg, chair of the Asian Languages and Cultures Department and Marra’s colleague.
Marra is survived by his wife, Toshie, and his mother, Anna.
(Photo courtesy of the Daily Bruin)