Thesis Theater: Keli Fancher – Japan’s Swiss Heimat: How Heidi Satisfies Japanese Homesickness

Signum University Thesis Theater
Join us on June 9, 2020, at 1pm ET for a Thesis Theater with Keli Fancher.


Keli Fancher
Dean of the Digital Campus
Larry Swain
Larry Swain
Board Member Faculty Representative; Lecturer; Preceptor


June 9, 2020 - 1:00 pm EDT


June 9, 2020 - 2:00 pm EDT

Thesis Theater Recording

About the Event

Signum MA student Keli Fancher will present his thesis “Japan’s Swiss Heimat: How Heidi Satisfies Japanese Homesickness” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Keli’s thesis supervisor, Dr. Robert Steed, and Second Reader, Dr. Larry Swain.

Thesis Abstract

During the late nineteenth century Japan underwent a period of rapid modernization as the country entered the modern global age, leaving many Japanese feeling alienated in their own homeland. This came to a head in the 1970s when repeated cases of corporate corruption and environmental disasters, resulting from unchecked capitalism, left many keenly aware of the changing times and nostalgic for a Japan they feared was lost. A response came from an unlikely source, via the animated series Heidi, Girl of the Alps created by the now-famous duo Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. Based on Johanna Spyri’s beloved novel, the animated adaptation was very well received and is widely credited with rekindling interest in the Heidi worldwide. This thesis explores the Swiss origins of the term nostalgia, its relationship to modernity, and the feeling of lost national identity in the post-modern world. That historical foundation is used as the basis for showing how a Swiss story became a site for Japanese nostalgia in the 1970s and helped to alleviate a nostalgia for a perceived lost homeland. This is accomplished through both the identification of traditional Japanese elements within the series as well as an examination of the utopian ideal of life-affirmation as presented in the childhood of Heidi.

About the Presenter

Keli C. Fancher lives with his large family in Western New York but is often found visiting family and friends in Switzerland. While he received his B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics from a Liberal Arts college, it wasn’t until he found Signum that he realized a close and scholarly reading of literature only serves to increase his enjoyment of the text. His chosen thesis topic allowed him to extend this enjoyment of literature to the exploration of two countries which he has loved for many years: Switzerland and Japan.

About Signum Thesis Theaters

Our graduate students write a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theatre is where they can present their thesis to the Signum community and wider public, enabling them to explain their topic in detail, respond to questions from the audience, and develop their conclusions.