Monsters, ghosts, the supernatural, the fantastic, the mysterious. These are not usually considered the “stuff” of modernism. More often they are regarded as inconsequential to the study of the modern, or, at best, seen as representative of traditional beliefs that are overcome and left behind in the transformation toward modernity. In Civilization and Monsters Gerald Figal asserts that discourse on the fantastic was at the heart of the historical configuration of Japanese modernity—that the representation of the magical and mysterious played an integral part in the production of modernity beginning in Meiji Japan (1868–1912). After discussing the role of the fantastic in everyday Japan at the eve of the Meiji period, Figal draws new connections between folklorists, writers, educators, state ideologues, and policymakers, all of whom crossed paths in a contest over supernatural terrain. He shows the ways in which a determined Meiji state was engaged in a battle to suppress, denigrate, manipulate, or reincorporate folk belief as part of an effort toward the consolidation of a modern national culture. Modern medicine and education, functioning as a means for the state to exercise its power, redefined folk practices as a source of evil. Diverse local spirits were supplanted by a new Japanese Spirit, embodied by the newly constituted emperor, the supernatural source of the nation’s strength. The monsters of folklore were identified, catalogued, and characterized according to a new regime of modern reason. But whether engaged to support state power and forge a national citizenry or to critique the arbitrary nature of that power, the fantastic, as Figal maintains, is the constant condition of Japanese modernity in all its contradictions. Furthermore, he argues, modernity in general is born of fantasy in ways that have scarcely been recognized. Bringing unexplored and provocative new ideas to the Japan specialist, Civilization and Monsters will also appeal to readers concerned with issues of modernity in general.
The Culture of the Quake is first and foremost an exploration of Taisho-era narrative fiction. Every major film studio produced earthquake films, and authors from I-novelists to modernists, proletarian writers to popular fiction writers wrote something on the earthquake. In every case pre-existing attitudes toward their work shaped the way these people represented the earthquake, and yet the overwhelming destruction and mass suffering also posed particular challenges in representation. How could one show the pain without exploitation? Other scholars have looked at some of these groups of writers or filmmakers individually, but there are no studies looking at how they each tackled a similar subject.
The Great Kanto Earthquake is an understudied event that has only recently caught the attention of scholars. By focusing on the way it was represented in high and low culture, The Culture of the Quake gives insight into how people experienced the disaster and how they interpreted it in the years following. This book should be of interest to scholars of Japanese and Asian literature, film, culture, and history, and scholars of disaster studies.
The Female as Subject presents 11 essays by an international group of scholars from Europe, Japan, and North America examining what women of different social classes read, what books were produced specifically for women, and the genres in which women themselves chose to write. The authors explore the different types of education women obtained and the levels of literacy they achieved, and they uncover women’s participation in the production of books, magazines, and speeches. The resulting depiction of women as readers and writers is also enhanced by thirty black-and-white illustrations.
For too long, women have been largely absent from accounts of cultural production in early modern Japan. By foregrounding women, the essays in this book enable us to rethink what we know about Japanese society during these centuries. The result is a new history of women as readers, writers, and culturally active agents.
The Female as Subject is essential reading for all students and teachers of Japan during the Edo and Meiji periods. It also provides valuable comparative data for scholars of the history of literacy and the book in East Asia.
In this revisionist study of texts from the mid-Heian period in Japan, H. Richard Okada offers new readings of three well-known tales: The Tale of the Bamboo-cutter, The Tale of Ise, and The Tale of Genji. Okada contends that the cultural and gendered significance of these works has been distorted by previous commentaries and translations belonging to the larger patriarchal and colonialist discourse of Western civilization. He goes on to suggest that this universalist discourse, which silences the feminine aspects of these texts and subsumes their writing in misapplied Western canonical literary terms, is sanctioned and maintained by the discipline of Japanese literature. Okada develops a highly original and sophisticated reading strategy that demonstrates how readers might understand texts belonging to a different time and place without being complicit in their assimilation to categories derived from Western literary traditions. The author’s reading stratgey is based on the texts’ own resistance to modes of analysis that employ such Western canonical terms as novel, lyric, and third-person narrative. Emphasis is also given to the distinctive cultural circles, as well as socio-political and genealogical circumstances that surrounded the emergence of the texts. Indispensable readings for specialists in literature, cultural studies, and Japanese literature and history, Figures of Resistance will also appeal to general readers interested in the problems and complexities of studying another culture.
Boldly challenging traditional understandings of Heian literature, Tomiko Yoda reveals the connections between gender, nationalism, and cultural representation evident in prevailing interpretations of classic Heian texts. Renowned for the wealth and sophistication of women’s writing, the literature of the Heian period (794–1192) has long been considered central to the Japanese literary canon and Japanese national identity. Yoda historicizes claims about the inherent femininity of this literature by revisiting key moments in the history of Japanese literary scholarship from the eighteenth century to the present. She argues that by foregrounding women’s voices in Heian literature, the discipline has repeatedly enacted the problematic modernizing gesture in which the “feminine” is recognized, canceled, and then contained within a national framework articulated in masculine terms.
Moving back and forth between a critique of modern discourses on Heian literature and close analyses of the Heian texts themselves, Yoda sheds light on some of the most persistent interpretive models underwriting Japanese literary studies, particularly the modern paradigm of a masculine national subject. She proposes new directions for disciplinary critique and suggests that historicized understandings of premodern texts offer significant insights into contemporary feminist theories of subjectivity and agency.
In Intimate Empire Nayoung Aimee Kwon examines intimate cultural encounters between Korea and Japan during the colonial era and their postcolonial disavowal. After the Japanese empire’s collapse in 1945, new nation-centered histories in Korea and Japan actively erased these once ubiquitous cultural interactions that neither side wanted to remember. Kwon reconsiders these imperial encounters and their contested legacies through the rise and fall of Japanese-language literature and other cultural exchanges between Korean and Japanese writers and artists in the Japanese empire. The contrast between the prominence of these and other forums of colonial-era cultural collaboration between the colonizers and the colonized, and their denial in divided national narrations during the postcolonial aftermath, offers insights into the paradoxical nature of colonial collaboration, which Kwon characterizes as embodying desire and intimacy with violence and coercion. Through the case study of the formation and repression of imperial subjects between Korea and Japan, Kwon considers the imbrications of colonialism and modernity and the entwined legacies of colonial and Cold War histories in the Asia-Pacific more broadly.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a revolution in Japanese literary criticism. A new generation of scholars and critics, many of them veterans of 1960s political activism, arose in revolt against the largely positivistic methodologies that had hitherto dominated postwar literary studies. Creatively refashioning approaches taken from the field of linguistics, the new scholarship challenged orthodox interpretations, often introducing new methodologies in the process: structuralism, semiotics, and phenomenological linguistics, among others. The radical changes introduced then continue to reverberate today, shaping the way Japanese literature is studied both at home and abroad.
The Linguistic Turn in Contemporary Japanese Literary Studies is the first critical study of this revolution to appear in English. It includes translations of landmark essays published in the 1970s and 1980s by such influential figures as Noguchi Takehiko, Kamei Hideo, Mitani Kuniaki, and Hirata Yumi. It also collects nine new essays that reflect critically on the emergence of linguistics-based literary criticism and theory in Japan, exploring both the novel possibilities such theory created and the shortcomings that could not be overcome. Scholars from a variety of disciplines and fields probe the political and intellectual implications of this transformation and explore the exciting new pathways it opened up for the study of modern Japanese literature.
Emphasizing how modes of book production, promotion, and consumption shape ideas of literary value, Edward Mack examines the role of Japan’s publishing industry in defining modern Japanese literature. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, as cultural and economic power consolidated in Tokyo, the city’s literary and publishing elites came to dominate the dissemination and preservation of Japanese literature. As Mack explains, they conferred cultural value on particular works by creating prizes and multivolume anthologies that signaled literary merit. One such anthology, the Complete Works of Contemporary Japanese Literature (published between 1926 and 1931), provided many readers with their first experience of selected texts designated as modern Japanese literature. The low price of one yen per volume allowed the series to reach hundreds of thousands of readers. An early prize for modern Japanese literature, the annual Akutagawa Prize, first awarded in 1935, became the country’s highest-profile literary award. Mack chronicles the history of book production and consumption in Japan, showing how advances in technology, the expansion of a market for literary commodities, and the development of an extensive reading community enabled phenomena such as the Complete Works of Contemporary Japanese Literature and the Akutagawa Prize to manufacture the very concept of modern Japanese literature.
Best known for his sharp wit and his portrayals of life along the banks of the Mississippi River, Mark Twain is indeed an American icon, and many scholars have examined how he and his work are perceived in the United States. In Mark Twain in Japan, however, Tsuyoshi Ishihara explores how Twain’s uniquely American work is viewed in a completely different culture.
Mark Twain in Japan addresses three principal areas. First, the author considers Japanese translations of Twain’s books, which have been overlooked by scholars but which have had a significant impact on the formation of the public image of Twain and his works in Japan. Second, he discusses the ways in which traditional and contemporary Japanese culture have transformed Twain’s originals and shaped Japanese adaptations. Finally, he uses the example of Twain in Japan as a vehicle to delve into the complexity of American cultural influences on other countries, challenging the simplistic one-way model of “cultural imperialism.” Ishihara builds on the recent work of other researchers who have examined such models of American cultural imperialism and found them wanting. The reality is that other countries sometimes show their autonomy by transforming, distorting, and rejecting aspects of American culture, and Ishihara explains how this is no less true in the case of Twain.
Featuring a wealth of information on how the Japanese have regarded Twain over time, this book offers both a history lesson on Japanese-American relations and a thorough analysis of the “Japanization” of Mark Twain, as Ishihara adds his voice to the growing international chorus of scholars who emphasize the global localization of American culture. While the book will naturally be of interest to Twain scholars, it also will appeal to other groups, particularly those interested in popular culture, Japanese culture, juvenile literature, film, animation, and globalization of American culture.
Since its publication in Japan ten years ago, the Origins of Modern Japanese Literature has become a landmark book, playing a pivotal role in defining discussions of modernity in that country. Against a history of relative inattention on the part of Western translators to modern Asian critical theory, this first English publication is sure to have a profound effect on current cultural criticism in the West. It is both the boldest critique of modern Japanese literary history to appear in the post-war era and a major theoretical intervention, which calls into question the idea of modernity that informs Western consciousness. In a sweeping reinterpretation of nineteenth-and twentieth-century Japanese literature, Karatani Kojin forces a reconsideration of the very assumptions underlying our concepts of modernity. In his analysis, such familiar terms as origin, modern, literature, and the state reveal themselves to be ideological constructs. Karatani weaves many separate strands into an argument that exposes what has been hidden in both Japanese and Western accounts of the development of modern culture. Among these strands are: the "discovery" of landscape in painting and literature and its relation to the inwardness of individual consciousness; the similar "discovery" in Japanese drama of the naked face as another kind of landscape produced by interiority; the challenge to the dominance of Chinese characters in writing; the emergence of confessional literature as an outgrowth of the repression of sexuality and the body; the conversion of the samurai class to Christianity; the mythologizing of tuberculosis, cancer, and illness in general as a producer of meaning; and the "discovery" of "the child" as an independent category of human being. A work that will be important beyond the confines of literary studies, Karatani's analysis challenges basic Western presumptions of theoretical centrality and originality and disturbs the binary opposition of the "West" to its so-called "other." Origins of Modern Japanese Literature should be read by all those with an interest in the development of cultural concepts and in the interrelating factors that have determined modernity.
Playing in the Shadows considers the literature engendered by postwar Japanese authors’ robust cultural exchanges with African Americans and African American literature. The Allied Occupation brought an influx of African American soldiers and culture to Japan, which catalyzed the writing of black characters into postwar Japanese literature. This same influx fostered the creation of organizations such as the Kokujin kenkyu no kai (The Japanese Association for Negro Studies) and literary endeavors such as the Kokujin bungaku zenshu (The Complete Anthology of Black Literature). This rich milieu sparked Japanese authors’—Nakagami Kenji and Oe Kenzaburo are two notable examples—interest in reading, interpreting, critiquing, and, ultimately, incorporating the tropes and techniques of African American literature and jazz performance into their own literary works. Such incorporation leads to literary works that are “black” not by virtue of their representations of black characters, but due to their investment in the possibility of technically and intertextually black Japanese literature. Will Bridges argues that these “fictions of race” provide visions of the way that postwar Japanese authors reimagine the ascription of race to bodies—be they bodies of literature, the body politic, or the human body itself.
According to a sixteenth-century Japanese commentary on the Lotus Sutra, the venerable Chinso Kasho was once preaching on the “ten wickednesses of women” when an angry old nun stepped out from the audience and shouted, “It’s not just women who are so evil—you’ve got plenty of wickedness in you, too!” Women were reviled in much of the popular Buddhist rhetoric of medieval Japan, castigated for their “filthy femininity,” but their low spiritual status was in fact frequently contested. This dispute over the place of women in Buddhism was often played out in the realm of medieval preachers’ and storytellers’ apocryphal tales of the lives, deaths, and inevitable religious awakenings of prominent female literary figures of an earlier age. Inspired by the folklorist Yanagita Kunio’s groundbreaking work of the early 1930s, Preachers, Poets, Women, and the Way explores the ways in which such fictional and usually scandalous stories of the Heian women authors Izumi Shikibu, Ono no Komachi, Murasaki Shikibu, and Sei Shonagon were employed in the competitive preaching and fund-raising of late-Heian and medieval Japan.
The book draws upon a broad range of medieval textual and pictorial sources to describe the diverse and heretofore little-studied roles of itinerant and temple-based preacher-entertainers in the formation and dissemination of medieval literary culture. By plumbing the medieval roots of Heian women poets’ contemporary fame, Preachers, Poets, Women, and the Way illuminates a forgotten world of doctrinal and institutional rivalry, sectarian struggle, and passionately articulated belief, revealing the processes by which Izumi Shikibu and her peers came to be celebrated as the national cultural icons that they are today.
The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature tells the story of Japanese literature from its start in the 1870s against the backdrop of a rapidly coalescing modern nation to the present. John Whittier Treat takes up both canonical and forgotten works, the non-literary as well as the literary, and pays special attention to the Japanese state’s hand in shaping literature throughout the country’s nineteenth-century industrialization, a half-century of empire and war, its post-1945 reconstruction, and the challenges of the twenty-first century to modern nationhood.
Beginning with journalistic accounts of female criminals in the aftermath of the Meiji civil war, Treat moves on to explore how woman novelist Higuchi Ichiyō’s stories engaged with modern liberal economics, sex work, and marriage; credits Natsume Sōseki’s satire I Am a Cat with the triumph of print over orality in the early twentieth century; and links narcissism in the visual arts with that of the Japanese I-novel on the eve of the country’s turn to militarism in the 1930s. From imperialism to Americanization and the new media of television and manga, from boogie-woogie music to Yoshimoto Banana and Murakami Haruki, Treat traces the stories Japanese audiences expected literature to tell and those they did not. The book concludes with a classic of Japanese science fiction a description of present-day crises writers face in a Japan hobbled by a changing economy and unprecedented natural and manmade catastrophes. The Rise and Fall of Japanese Literature reinterprets the “end of literature”—a phrase heard often in Japan—as a clarion call to understand how literary culture worldwide now teeters on a historic precipice, one at which Japan’s writers may have arrived just a moment before the rest of us.
Tales of Times Now Past is a translation of 62 outstanding tales freshly selected from Konjaku monogatari shu, a Japanese anthology dating from the early twelfth century. The original work, unique in world literature, contains more than one thousand systematically arranged tales from India, China, and Japan. It is the most important example of a genre of collections of brief tales which, because of their informality and unpretentious style, were neglected by Japanese critics until recent years but which are now acknowledged to be among the most significant prose literature of premodern Japan. “Konjaku” in particular has aroused the enthusiasm of such leading 20th-century writers as Akutagawa Ryunosuke and Tanizaki Jun’ichiro.
The stories, with sources in both traditional lore and contemporary gossip, cover an astonishing range—homiletic, sentimental, terrifying, practical-minded, humorous, ribald. Their topics include the life of the Buddha, descriptions of Heaven and Hell, feats of warriors, craftsmen, and musicians, unsuspected vice, virtue, and ingenuity, and the ways and wiles of bandits, ogres, and proverbially greedy provincial governors, to name just a few. Composed perhaps a century after the refined, allusive, aristocratic Tale of Genji, Konjaku represents a masculine outlook and comparatively plebeian social orientation, standing in piquant contrast to the earlier masterpiece. The unknown compiler was interested less in exploring psychological subtleties than in presenting vivid portraits of human foibles and eccentricities. The stories in the present selection have been chosen to provide an idea of the scope and structure of the book as a whole, and also for their appeal to the modern reader. And the translation is based on the premise that the most faithful rendering is also the liveliest.
Maeda Ai was a prominent literary critic and an influential public intellectual in late-twentieth-century Japan. Text and the City is the first book of his work to appear in English. A literary and cultural critic deeply engaged with European critical thought, Maeda was a brilliant, insightful theorist of modernity for whom the city was the embodiment of modern life. He conducted a far-reaching inquiry into changing conceptions of space, temporality, and visual practices as they gave shape to the city and its inhabitants. James A. Fujii has assembled a selection of Maeda’s essays that question and explore the contours of Japanese modernity and resonate with the concerns of literary and cultural studies today.
Maeda remapped the study of modern Japanese literature and culture in the 1970s and 1980s, helping to generate widespread interest in studying mass culture on the one hand and marginalized sectors of modern Japanese society on the other. These essays reveal the broad range of Maeda’s cultural criticism. Among the topics considered are Tokyo; utopias; prisons; visual media technologies including panoramas and film; the popular culture of the Edo, Meiji, and contemporary periods; maps; women’s magazines; and women writers. Integrally related to these discussions are Maeda’s readings of works of Japanese literature including Matsubara Iwagoro’s In Darkest Tokyo, Nagai Kafu’s The Fox, Higuchi Ichiyo’s Growing Up, Kawabata Yasunari’s The Crimson Gang of Asakusa, and Narushima Ryuhoku’s short story “Useless Man.” Illuminating the infinitely rich phenomena of modernity, these essays are full of innovative, unexpected connections between cultural productions and urban life, between the text and the city.
First published in Japan in 1983, this book is now a classic in modern Japanese literary studies. Covering an astonishing range of texts from the Meiji period (1868–1912), it presents sophisticated analyses of the ways that experiments in literary language produced multiple new—and sometimes revolutionary—forms of sensibility and subjectivity. Along the way, Kamei Hideo carries on an extended debate with Western theorists such as Saussure, Bakhtin, and Lotman, as well as with such contemporary Japanese critics as Karatani Kojin and Noguchi Takehiko.
Transformations of Sensibility deliberately challenges conventional wisdom about the rise of modern literature in Japan and offers highly original close readings of works by such writers as Futabatei Shimei, Tsubouchi Shoyo, Higuchi Ichiyo, and Izumi Kyoka, as well as writers previously ignored by most scholars. It also provides a new critical theorization of the relationship between language and sensibility, one that links the specificity of Meiji literature to broader concerns that transcend the field of Japanese literary studies. Available in English translation for the first time, it includes a new preface by the author and an introduction by the translation editor that explain the theoretical and historical contexts in which the work first appeared.
From Einstein and Truman to Sartre and Derrida, many have declared the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be decisive events in human history. None, however, have more acutely understood or perceptively critiqued the consequences of nuclear war than Japanese writers. In this first complete study of the nuclear theme in Japanese intellectual and artistic life, John Whittier Treat shows how much we have to learn from Japanese writers and artists about the substance and meaning of the nuclear age.
Treat recounts the controversial history of Japanese public discourse around Hiroshima and Nagasaki—a discourse alternatively celebrated and censored—from August 6, 1945, to the present day. He includes works from the earliest survivor writers, including Hara Tamiki and Ota Yoko, to such important Japanese intellectuals today as Oe Kenzaburo and Oda Makoto. Treat argues that the insights of Japanese writers into the lessons of modern atrocity share much in common with those of Holocaust writers in Europe and the practitioners of recent poststructuralist nuclear criticism in America. In chapters that take up writers as diverse as Hiroshima poets, Tokyo critics, and Nagasaki women novelists, he explores the implications of these works for critical, literary, and cultural theory.
Treat summarizes the Japanese contribution to such ongoing international debates as the crisis of modern ethics, the relationship of experience to memory, and the possibility of writing history. This Japanese perspective, Treat shows, both confirms and amends many of the assertions made in the West on the shift that the death camps and nuclear weapons have jointly signaled for the modern world and for the future.
Writing Ground Zero will be read not only by students of Japan, but by all readers concerned with the fate of culture after the fact of nuclear war in our time.
Despite its centuries-long tradition of literary and artistic depictions of love between men, around the fin de siècle Japanese culture began to portray same-sex desire as immoral. Writing the Love of Boys looks at the response to this mindset during the critical era of cultural ferment between the two world wars as a number of Japanese writers challenged the idea of love and desire between men as pathological.
Jeffrey Angles focuses on key writers, examining how they experimented with new language, genres, and ideas to find fresh ways to represent love and desire between men. He traces the personal and literary relationships between contemporaries such as the poet Murayama Kaita, the mystery writers Edogawa Ranpo and Hamao Shiro, the anthropologist Iwata Jun’ichi, and the avant-garde innovator Inagaki Taruho.
Writing the Love of Boys shows how these authors interjected the subject of male–male desire into discussions of modern art, aesthetics, and perversity. It also explores the impact of their efforts on contemporary Japanese culture, including the development of the tropes of male homoeroticism that recur so often in Japanese girls’ manga about bishonen love.