AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 751

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Session 751: Japanese Literature

Half of “Woman-Hater” is “Woman”: Saikaku’s Representations of Women in the Great Mirror of Male Love
David C. Atherton, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

The poet, author, playwright, and illustrator Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693) was one of the most sophisticated and complex contributors to discourse on women in the early Edo period. While certain of Saikaku’s works are explicitly devoted to the representation of women (Koshoku ichidai onna, Koshoku gonin onna), female characters and relationships between the sexes often become the focus of works ostensibly devoted to other topics as well. In this paper I examine a work that claims not to be about women at all. While Nanshoku okagami (The Great Mirror of Male Love, 1687) famously opens and concludes in the voice of the misogynistic “woman hater,” the intervening chapters exhibit a far more complicated relationship between women and the practitioners of the “way of male love.” Through a close analysis of the text, its relationship to other works by Saikaku, and its engagement with contemporary literary and didactic texts on women and male-male sexuality (nanshoku), I ask several key questions. Is there a fundamental difference between men and women in the Great Mirror, or are the boundaries between the sexes ultimately more ambiguous than the text’s frame suggests? Where are these fundamental differences or, conversely, ambiguities grounded: in behavior, speech, appearance, the body? How do these sites relate to the depiction of different sexualities? How does attention to women in the Great Mirror complicate our understanding of its engagement with contemporary nanshoku discourse? How does it complicate or deepen our understanding of Saikaku’s representations of relations between the sexes throughout his work?

"To Go Where One’s Never Been"- Deletion as a Storytelling Dvice in Nagai Kafu’s “Kitsune”
Gala M. Follaco, University of Naples 'L'Orientale', Italy

Nagai Kafu’s “Kitsune” is a short story first published in magazine “Chugaku sekai” (1908) and then included in the collection “Kanraku” (1909). “Kanraku” holds a crucial position within Kafu’s production because it appeared only few months after his Western stories and immediately before works such as “Reisho” (1910) and “Sumidagawa” (1911), where he depicted sceneries typical of the Edo period in an elegiac tone which also revealed his feelings of contempt and disapproval toward bunmei kaika. “Kanraku” may therefore be considered as the watershed between the years of his fascination with Western culture and those of his “return to Edo”. Further, I believe that “Kitsune” holds a particularly poignant significance, since here Kafu expresses nostalgia not by turning to the shitamachi, as he would do later, but rather by recalling his childhood in Koishikawa, in the Yamanote. As Maeda Ai has pointed out, Kafu’s home surroundings as described in “Kitsune” show no traces of his household’s Western lifestyle, and historical discrepancies reveal his desire to write about a space untouched by Meiji westernization. I intend to analyse “Kitsune” vis-à-vis a wide body of materials by Kafu, including two sets of photographs that he took in Tokyo and then included in private editions of “Bokuto kitan” (1937) and “Omokage” (1938). My aim is to investigate the process by which he elicited intellectual meaning and performed political criticism by means of subtraction of relevant architectural elements of the urban space, and its adaptation to the different registers of literature and photography.

The Cult of Sincerity and the Emergence of Women Poets in the Late Edo-Period Japan
Mari Nagase, Augustana College, USA

During the late Edo-period Japan, certain distinguished women kanshi poets such as Ema Saiko, Yanagawa Koran, and Hara Saihin made a striking emergence into an elite literary society. Around the same time, a new poetic approach represented by the term seirei (Ch. xingling) had become influential. The seirei, which has been translated as “spiritualist” or “native sensibility,” emphasized a poet’s personal experiences and truthful expression. The parallel between the emergence of the seirei school and women kanshi poets was, I argue, not a phenomenon of coincidence. Since the seirei ideals respected the original, honest expressions, kanshi became an open vehicle for women poets to convey their own life concerns and experiences. Moreover, as seirei poets considered romantic love as an important source of poetic inspiration, they turned favorable attention towards women who could share in the literary, romantic expression. Dorothy Ko, a historian specialized in studies of women in China, elucidated the relation between the general interest in women’s literature and the vitalization of xingling poetics in the late-Ming period. As the rise of xingling poetics increased interest in women’s poetry in the late Ming China, the proliferation of seirei poetics in the late Edo Japan laid the ground for women poets to flourish. To illuminate the influence of seirei poetics on the emergence of women kanshi poets, I will investigate the discourses of seirei and its relationship to women, illustrating the movement’s influence by examining the instruction of Rai San’yo to his female disciple, Ema Saiko.

Reconstructing the Past as a Utopian Exercise of Male Fantasy: The Narrative Politics in the Fictions of Kawabata Yasunari and Tanizaki Junichiro
Yumi Soeshima, West Virginia University, USA

Narrative is a conscious representation to give structural meanings to a series of temporal events of reality. What we know and how we know are closely connected with what is told and how it is told. Or in other words, form and content of the narrative are interrelated. Many modern Japanese writers such as Natsume, Kawabata, Tanizaki, Mishima, Abe, and Oe write the problem of modernity in relation to the figure of woman in their fictions. This paper examines the politics of narrative organization in the fictions of Kawabata Yasunari and Tanizaki Junichiro. In Kawabata's "Snow Country" and Tanizaki's "A Portrait of Shunkin" and "Some Prefer Nettles," the figure of woman are utilized for reconstructing the traditional past lost in modernity. The exemplary female characters in these fictions (Komako, Shunkin, and O-Hisa), who are aestheticized cultural icons, actually desire for modernity, being oppressed by the respective male protagonists (Shimamura, Sasuke, and Kaname). The negativity on the female characters recognized but ignored by the male heroes indicates that the figure of woman is fantasized and that reconstructing the past is merely a utopian exercise, existing nowhere.