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Beheaded Emperors and the Absent Figure in Contemporary Japanese Literature

John Whittier Treat
PMLA
Vol. 109, No. 1 (Jan., 1994), pp. 100-115
DOI: 10.2307/463014
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/463014
Page Count: 16
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Beheaded Emperors and the Absent Figure in Contemporary Japanese Literature
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Abstract

Fukazawa Shichirō's 1960 short story "Furyū mutan" ("The Story of a Dream of Courtly Elegance") humorously postulates an anarchic popular uprising that culminates in the execution of the Japanese imperial family. A right-wing terrorist attack on the story's publisher not only prompted an end to the depiction of the emperor in fiction but also may have caused the informal ban-still in force-against any overtly critical public discussion of the emperor system (tennō-sei). What distinguished "Furyū mutan" from earlier literary treatments of the emperor is its unique parody of his postwar, postdivine status as emblem of a democratic citizenry and, at the same time, of his cultural duties as principal poet of the nation. Fukazawa's carnivalesque mockery of imperial verse challenges the rhetoric of the emperor's ambiguous role as Japan's foremost symbol and reigning symbolist. The apparent price, however, has been the freedom of Japanese writers to raise such issues ever again.

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