Over the past thirty years translations of Japanese women’s writing and biographies of women writers have enriched and expanded our understanding of modern Japanese literature. But how have women writers been received and read in Japan? To appreciate the subterfuges, strategies, and choices that the modern Japanese woman writer has faced, readers must consider the criticisms leveled against her, the expectations and admonitions that have been whispered in her ear, and pay attention to the way she herself has responded. What did it mean to be a woman writer in twentieth-century Japan? How was she defined and how did this definition limit her artistic sphere?
Woman Critiqued builds on existing scholarship by offering English-language readers access to some of the more salient critiques that have been directed at women writers, on the one hand, and reactions to these by women writers, on the other. The grouping of the essays into chapters organized by theme clarifies how the discussion in Japan has been framed by certain assumptions and how women have repeatedly tried to intervene by playing with, undercutting, or attempting to exceed these assumptions. Chapter introductions contextualize the translated essays historically and draw out aspects that warrant particular scrutiny or explication.
Although the translators do not cover all aspects or genres identified with women’s literary endeavors in the twentieth-century, they provide a significant understanding of the evaluative systems under which Japanese women writers have worked. Woman Critiqued will be eagerly read by specialists in modern Japanese literature and those interested in comparative literature, women’s studies, gender studies, and history.