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Writing the Love of Boys

Origins of Bishonen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature

Jeffrey Angles

Publication Year: 2011

Despite its centuries-long tradition of literary and artistic depictions of love between men, around the fin de siècle Japanese culture began to portray same-sex desire as immoral. Writing the Love of Boys looks at the response to this mindset during the critical era of cultural ferment between the two world wars as a number of Japanese writers challenged the idea of love and desire between men as pathological.

Jeffrey Angles focuses on key writers, examining how they experimented with new language, genres, and ideas to find fresh ways to represent love and desire between men. He traces the personal and literary relationships between contemporaries such as the poet Murayama Kaita, the mystery writers Edogawa Ranpo and Hamao Shiro, the anthropologist Iwata Jun’ichi, and the avant-garde innovator Inagaki Taruho.

Writing the Love of Boys shows how these authors interjected the subject of male–male desire into discussions of modern art, aesthetics, and perversity. It also explores the impact of their efforts on contemporary Japanese culture, including the development of the tropes of male homoeroticism that recur so often in Japanese girls’ manga about bishonen love.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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Note about Japanese Names

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pp. vii-viii

The Japanese names that appear in this book are in the traditional Japanese order, with the surname before the given name; however, when writing about Japanese writers and artists with pen names or distinctive given names, I follow the common Japanese convention of referring to them simply by their given name or pen name. ...

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pp. 1-36

When Western readers look at the manga (graphic novels) that have been so popular in Japan over the course of the last few decades, they are often struck by how often male–male affection and eroticism appears in their pages. In fact, male–male love has been one of the most important thematic elements in manga, especially manga for adolescent girls (shōjo manga), ...

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1. Blow the Bloodstained Bugle: Murayama Kaita and the Language of Personal Sensation

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pp. 37-74

Early in the morning of February 20, 1919, in Tokyo, a young artist named Murayama Kaita passed away from tubercular pneumonia, which had been exacerbated by the influenza epidemic that swept through Japan and much of the industrialized world in 1918 and 1919. ...

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2. Treading the Edges of the Known World: Homoerotic Fantasies in Murayama Kaita’s Prose

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pp. 75-106

Over the course of his life, Kaita wrote a number of works in prose. Just during his days as a schoolboy in Kyoto, he produced a half-dozen stories and plays. Although many are not polished or particularly refined, others display the visionary and even hallucinogenic qualities present in his poetry. ...

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3. The Appeal of the Strange: Same-Sex Desire in Edogawa Ranpo’s Mystery Fiction

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pp. 107-142

The 1920s and 1930s were a time of massive change in Japan. As the nation recovered from the devastating Kantō earthquake of 1923, the consumer market underwent a period of unprecedented expansion, as did the publishing industry and the related mechanisms of censorship. ...

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4. (Re)Discovering Same-Sex Love: Ranpo and the Creation of Queer History

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pp. 143-192

In Getting Medieval, Carolyn Dinshaw writes that one of the reasons people explore queer history is to make cross-temporal connections between “on the one hand, lives, texts, and other cultural phenomena left out of sexual categories back then and, on the other hand, those left out of current sexual categories now.”1 ...

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5. Uninscribing the Adolescent Body: Aesthetic Resistance in Taruho’s Writing

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pp. 193-224

One day around 1930, the prominent poet Hagiwara Sakutarō came to Ranpo’s apartment, which at that time was near Waseda University in Tokyo, to ask him about “secret clubs for massage” (massāji no himitsu kurabu).1 He had also brought the young, aspiring writer Inagaki Taruho with him, ...

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Conclusion: Postwar Legacies

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pp. 225-246

The writings of Kaita, Ranpo, and Taruho lie at the center of a long, ongoing, multifaceted cultural dialogue in early twentieth-century Japan about the meaning of male–male love and eroticism—a dialogue given new urgency by the proliferation of sexological and psychological writings ...

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pp. 247-250

It was several years ago on a warm afternoon in the book-filled study of the brilliant poet Takahashi Mutsuo that I first heard the name Murayama Kaita in a conversation about erotic desire and poetry. Since it was this bit of karma that eventually led me to the topic of this book, it is only appropriate I begin by thanking Mr. Takahashi. ...


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pp. 251-272


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pp. 273-290


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pp. 291-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780816676835
E-ISBN-10: 0816676836
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816669707

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2011