The director of Tufts University’s Japanese program will explore the work of Academy Award-winning director and animator Hayao Miyazaki at the University of Mississippi’s 53rd Christopher Longest Lecture, set for 6 p.m. Nov. 4 in Bondurant Hall auditorium.
Susan Napier, a professor who also heads the Japanese program at Tufts, plans to discuss “The Last Utopian: Hayao Miyazaki and the Uses of Enchantment.” The lecture is sponsored by the UM Department of Modern Languages.
This is the first time that Japanese is the focus of a Longest Lecture, though the language has been taught at the university for about 20 years, said Donald L. Dyer, UM chair and professor of modern languages. The lecture series, which is named for a man who served UM for decades, has also brought much enrichment to the university for more than 50 years, he said.“It’s a real joy as a department chair to be involved in this,” Dyer said. “(The Longest family) has a rich history of both working at the university and contributing to the university for over half a century.”
Miyazaki is one of the world’s most beloved animators. The Oscar-winning film “Spirited Away” is one of his films that “mix stunning imagery, powerful heroines and complex heartfelt narratives to create memorable works of fantasy.” Miyazaki is more than just an entertainer; rather, his films deliver subtle messages about consumerism, the environment, generational and gender roles, and the “ultimate question of how to live in today’s world,” Napier said.
Napier’s lecture will argue that Miyazaki’s motion pictures are the last utopian films, making him the last politically and socially focused artist who “cares desperately about the past, present and future of humanity.”
The Christopher Longest Series was created by Ann Waller Reins Longest to honor her husband and also enrich the university, to which he contributed so much during his career. The series, which began in 1961, is named for the former UM chair and professor of modern languages.
Christopher Longest, a native of Pontotoc County, graduated from the university in 1900. He first taught English at Johns Hopkins University, where he completed his graduate degree in 1908. He earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1915 and a doctor of law degree from Mississippi College in 1950.
Longest held several Spanish and Latin teaching positions from 1908 until he became the chairman of the Department of Modern Languages in 1947, serving until 1951. He also served as acting chancellor in 1930, registrar in 1929 and 1930 and also director of the university’s summer session from 1920 to 1934. He managed the alumni fund from 1912 to 1951. After retiring from teaching, Longest became president of First National Bank of Oxford.