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Topographies of Japanese Modernism

Topographies of Japanese Modernism

Seiji M. Lippit
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Topographies of Japanese Modernism
    Book Description:

    What happens when a critique of modernity -- a "revolt against the traditions of the Western world" -- is situated within a non-European context, where the concept of the modern has been inevitably tied to the image of the West?

    Seiji M. Lippit offers the first comprehensive study in English of Japanese modernist fiction of the 1920s and 1930s. Through close readings of four leading figures of this movement -- Akutagawa, Yokomitsu, Kawabata, and Hayashi -- Lippit aims to establish a theoretical and historical framework for the analysis of Japanese modernism.

    The 1920s and 1930s witnessed a general sense of crisis surrounding the institution of literature, marked by both the radical politicization of literary practice and the explosion of new forms of cultural production represented by mass culture. Against this backdrop, this study traces the heterogeneous literary topographies of modernist writings. Through an engagement with questions of representation, subjectivity, and ideology, it situates the disintegration of literary form in these texts within the writers' exploration of the fluid borderlines of Japanese modernity.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50068-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Fissures of Japanese Modernity (pp. 1-36)

    In his essay “Literature of the Lost Home” (Kokyō o ushinatta bungaku, 1933), literary critic Kobayashi Hideo (1902–1983) identifies the fundamental feature of contemporary Japanese culture as a pervasive spirit of homelessness and loss. For Kobayashi, the sense of dislocation is embodied in the city of Tokyo, which, in its continual transformations, does not provide any material link to his childhood. The city serves not as a repository of accumulated memories—the necessary condition for a “home” to function as such—but only as an ever shifting marker of disassociation from the past. At the same time, Kobayashi writes,...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Disintegrating Mechanisms of Subjectivity: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s Last Writings (pp. 37-72)

    Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s suicide in July 1927, coming little more than half a year after the beginning of the Shōwa period, seemed to many at the time to signify the end of an era. A number of writers and critics, for example, interpreted his death as marking the defeat of an intellectual (or aestheticized) literary practice disengaged from historical and social reality. This point was emphasized by several prominent Marxist critics who read his personal crisis as “one aspect of a collapsing bourgeoisie.”¹ Miyamoto Kenji (b. 1908) crystallized this sentiment in his landmark essay “The Literature of Defeat” (Haiboku no bungaku,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Topographies of Empire: Yokomitsu Riichi’s Shanghai (pp. 73-116)

    In his short story “The Pale Captain” (Aoi tai-i, 1927), published in the year of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s death, Yokomitsu Riichi writes about a Japanese man who visits Korea after his father has died there. The work is based on Yokomitsu’s own experience (his father, a railway engineer, died in Korea in 1922) and is one of a series of his stories set in the Japanese colony.¹ In these works, Yokomitsu, whose writings explored the fragmentation of consciousness amid the dizzying sensations of urban culture, for the first time set his literary experiments explicitly in the context of the Japanese empire....

  7. CHAPTER 3 Mapping the Space of Mass Culture: Kawabata Yasunari’s Scarlet Gang of Asakusa (pp. 117-158)

    Kawabata Yasunari began serializing his first extended work, Scarlet Gang of Asakusa (Asakusa Kurenaidan, 1929–1930), a little more than a year after Shanghai began to appear in the pages of Kaizō.¹ Together with Yokomitsu Riichi’s novel, it stands as the major literary legacy of the New Sensationist movement. In certain ways, it also is a parallel project. Both works might be described as “cartographic,” for they are organized around the mapping of a specific urban topography. This space, in turn, frames a particular image of Japanese modernity. In their own ways, the two works focus on the representation of...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Negations of Genre: Hayashi Fumiko’s Nomadic Writing (pp. 159-196)

    If Kobayashi Hideo can be said to have formulated a theoretical framework for understanding Japanese modernist literature, it may be located in his explorations of the space between theory and literature, the dominant preoccupation of his early writings. Thus in “Multiple Designs” (Samazama naru ishō, 1929), Kobayashi engaged in a self-reflective critique of literary criticism, at once rejecting criticism’s division of literary production into different “ideological designs” while also making the case for the value of criticism as a genre in its own right, a practice on the order of literature itself.¹ As Paul Anderer writes: “It was Kobayashi’s fundamental...

  9. CHAPTER 5 A Phantasmatic Return: Yokomitsu Riichi’s Melancholic Nationalism (pp. 197-228)

    In a well-known essay, “The Return to Japan” (Nihon e no kaiki, 1938), the poet Hagiwara Sakutarō (1886–1942), a leading figure of modernist poetry in Japan, wrote about his recent awakening from what he termed an intoxicating dream of the West: “Until just recently, the West was our home [kokyō]. Just as the child Urashima long ago tried to find his soul’s homeland and pictured an image of the Dragon Palace beyond the sea, so too did we imagine the mirage of the West across the ocean.” Hagiwara drew on the modernist trope of modernity as phantasmagoria, describing this...

  10. Notes (pp. 229-276)
  11. Bibliography (pp. 277-292)
  12. Index (pp. 293-308)