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Bodies of Evidence

Women, Society, and Detective Fiction in 1990s Japan

Amanda C. Seaman

Publication Year: 2004

The publication in 1992 of Miyabe Miyuke’s highly anticipated Kasha (translated into English as All She Was Worth) represents a watershed in the history of Japanese women’s detective fiction. Inspired by Miyabe’s success and the increasing number of Western mysteries in translation, women began writing mysteries of all types, employing the narrative and conceptual resources of the detective genre to depict and critique contemporary Japanese society—and the situation of women in it. Bodies of Evidence examines this recent boom and the ways in which five contemporary authors (Miyabe, Nonami Asa, Shibata Yoshiki, Kirino Natsuo, and Matsuo Yumi) critically engage with a variety of social issues and concerns: consumerism and the crisis of identity, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, sexual harassment and sexual violence, and motherhood. Bodies of Evidence moves beyond the borders of detective fiction scholarship by exploring the worlds constructed by these authors in their novels and showing how they intersect with other political, cultural, and economic discourses and with the lived experiences of contemporary Japanese women.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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p. ix

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 2-25

In 1992, Miyabe Miyuki’s Kasha (Cart of fire, translated into English as All She Was Worth) was the most anticipated novel of the season. This prizewinning detective novel solidified Miyabe’s reputation as one of Japan’s top mystery writers, made it to the top of almost every “best mystery” list, and was even lauded as one of the...

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Chapter 2. A Home of One’s Own: Identity, Community, and Nostalgia in Miyabe Miyuki’s All She Was Worth

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pp. 26-56

Miyabe Miyuki is perhaps the best known and most popular female mystery writer in Japan today, an author whose works (unlike those of the other writers considered in subsequent chapters) do not feature a female detective. As I will demonstrate in the following pages, this writer, who explicitly avoids using...

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Chapter 3. Office(r) Ladies: Police Work as Women’s Work

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pp. 57-85

For women writers attempting to create a strong and believable female detective, the combustible issues of sex and gender loom large. The author must address a number of difficult questions in her attempt to situate her character in a setting that resonates with how readers perceive the world to be. ...

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Chapter 4. Sex and Violence: Is That a Gun in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

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pp. 86-118

In 1993, Kirino Natsuo’s first novel in the Murano Miro series, Kao ni furikakaru ame, won the Edogawa Rampo Prize for best mystery. The most notable feature of this novel and those that followed was their protagonist, the hard-boiled female private eye Murano Miro, a woman whose indepen-...

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Chapter 5. Sexing the City: Bodies and Space in the Work of Matsuo Yumi

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pp. 119-144

Matsuo Yumi’s 1994 collection of short stories, Baruun Taun no satsujin (Murder in Balloon Town, 1994), is set in a Tokyo of the near future divided into special wards, each dedicated to a specific function such as industrial production or commercial activities. ...

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pp. 145-149

Bobbie Ann Mason has suggested that detective fiction is like a sonnet, “endless variations on an inflexible form.”1 We have traced these variations in the work of Miyabe Miyuki, Nonami Asa, Shibata Yoshiki, Kirino Natsuo, and Matsuo Yumi. ...


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pp. 151-176


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pp. 177-189

Index [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 191-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861667
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824827366

Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 607137991
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bodies of Evidence

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Subject Headings

  • Detective and mystery stories, Japanese -- History and criticism.
  • Japanese fiction -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Women and literature -- Japan.
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