Japanese literature as world literature [thesis]

Robin Leah Tierney
This dissertation argues that the writings of the contemporary Japanese writers Tawada Yoko (1960-) and Shono Yoriko (1956-) should be understood as literature that is commenting upon global processes and should therefore be categorized within the newly re-deployed category of "World Literature." In the first chapter I explore the political project of Shono Yoriko's fictional and polemical writings. Shono uses the bundan (literary establishment) as a platform for her critique of neo-liberal
more » ... omic trends and launches a campaign that is both global in scope and kyoku-shi (hyperpersonal) in tone. She counters universally applicable socio-economic trends with intensely personal myths and private vendettas against public intellectuals who deny the value of non-profit-grossing "serious" literature. In chapter two I perform a close reading of her 2004 novel Kompira as well as her busu mono (ugly tales). Kompira, I argue, is both a historical narrative of a particular kompira kami (deity) and the postulating of a system of resistance that involves hybridity and embodiment. While Tawada Yoko is most often identified as a border-crossing, multi-lingual writer who publishes in both German and Japanese, in chapter three I argue that this "identity" threatens to eclipse the ways in which she investigates the bodily reception of language. My claim is that Tawada's interstitial explorations pose translation and bodily coding as inherent to language acquisition in general and suggests that all words carry their own libidinal imprint. In chapter four I argue that Tawada mines bodily processes for her representational strategies. In Tawada's texts the unraveling of national and masculine aesthetics forms a critical part of decoding the body as a fixed and gendered entity. When Tawada positions the male body as an object of tactile inquiry and explores the bodily-confusion-with-another inherent in the process of ovulation as a narrative drive, I see a re-working of corporeal and cognitive logics. This reworking, I contend, is 2 not a conclusive "righting of wrongs" but an invitation to join in the ongoing process of articulating difference in a potentially post-national world. In exploring the oeuvre of both Shono and Tawada this dissertation begins to chart an emerging field of contemporary Japanese literature in which writers craft an imaginary that accounts for both global processes and one-off particular bodies. Abstract Approved: ____________________________________ Thesis Supervisor ____________________________________ ___________________________________ Stephen Vlastos ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS There are so many people who have helped me see this project through to its conclusion. Here, at the University of Iowa, I am deeply grateful to Stephen Vlastos for encouraging me at so many different stages of my graduate career and for being such a consistent source of support. My thesis adviser, Maureen Robertson, very kindly took me on as somewhat unlikely candidate and greatly improved the quality of my writing with her painstaking editing. Steven Ungar has witnessed my progress here from its very beginning through to my defense and I am extremely grateful for his unstinting professionalism and for the opportunity he has afforded me to broaden my intellectual scope as a comparativist. Adrienne Hurley, now at McGill University, has read my dissertation very closely and provided me with helpful feedback. Rebecca Copeland, Melissa Curley, Norma Field, Gretchen Jones, and Jonathan Hall have all generously contributed to my growth as a scholar of Japanese literature. At the Inter-University Center in Yokohama Tateoka Yoko and Otake Hiroko provided me with a wonderful education in reading and writing Japanese. Yukiko Takata, Takanori Hide, and Miwako Sato were extremely helpful to me during my time at the University of Tokyo. I also owe a significant debt of gratitude to the Fulbright office in Tokyo for their generous support, and to Mizuho Iwata, in particular, for her kindness and patience. I thank my partner, Heidi, for starting me on this path, and for joining me on our second time round in Kichijoji. I do not take for granted my great luck in finding a partner that feeds my intellectual cravings with her rigorous thinking and inspiring openness. Our conversations and journeys -both big and small -are a great source of joy in my life. I thank my parents, Carole and James Tierney, for affording me every opportunity -emotional, educational, financial, and geographic -to develop a fun-filled life of inquiry. Failure to take advantage of what their love and hard work has given me would have been a ridiculous waste. My graduate studies have been less monastic than iii most and I have to say that I am deeply grateful for not having put on hold so many wonderful relationships and events. I owe thanks to my sister, Tracy, and my brother, Matthew, for playing with me throughout, and for sharing their growing families with me, and for (hopefully) understanding my constraints when they arose. My dear friends Maria R, Karen, MK, Lilly, and Rachel, have kept me grounded and adventurous, and in recognition of the so many different projects and paths to be pursued.
doi:10.17077/etd.ka7o1vh9 fatcat:pls4hjt6sbbmvgzuwpey43oniq