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The Alien Within

Representations of the Exotic in Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature

Leith Morton

Publication Year: 2009

Readers worldwide have long been drawn to the foreign, the exotic, and the alien, even before Freud’s famous essay on the uncanny in 1919. Given Japan’s many years of relative isolation, followed by its multicultural empire, these themes seem particularly ripe for exploration and exploitation by Japanese writers. Their literary adventures have taken them inside Japan as well as outside, and how they internalized the exotic through the adoption of modernist techniques and subject matter forms the primary subject of this book. The Alien Within is the first book-length thematic study in English of the alien in modern Japanese literature and helps shed new light on a number of important authors. Morton examines the Gothic, a form of writing with strong affinities to European Gothic and a motif in the fiction of several key modern Japanese writers, such as Arishima Takeo. Morton also discusses the translations of Tsubouchi Shoyo, Japan’s most famous early translator of Shakespeare, and how this most alien and exotic author was absorbed into the Japanese literary and theatrical tradition. The new field of translation theory and how it relates to translating Shakespeare are also discussed. Morton devotes two chapters to the celebrated female poet Yosano Akiko, whose verse on childbirth and her unborn children broke taboos relating to the expression of the female body and sensibility. He also highlights the writing of contemporary Okinawan novelist Oshiro Tatsuhiro, whose work springs from what is for Japanese an exotic subtropical landscape and makes symbolic reference to the otherness at the heart of Japanese religiosity. Another significant but equally overlooked subject is the focus of the final chapter, which analyzes the travel writing of internationally best-selling author Murakami Haruki. Murakami’s great corpus of work includes a one-volume study of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which Morton discusses in detail. The Alien Within breaks new ground in its treatment of the exotic in modern Japanese writing and in its discussion of authors and work hitherto absent from critical discussions in English. It will be of significant interest to readers of literature and students of modern Japanese culture and women’s writing as well as those fascinated by the occult, Gothic fiction, and the exotic.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

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pp. vii-ix

I have to thank a number of people without whose support and assistance this book would not have been written. A number of the chapters began life as papers read at symposia and scholarly conferences held at universities in Australia, North America, Japan, and Europe. In particular, in Australia I wish to thank colleagues at the universities of Sydney, Newcastle, and...

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pp. 1-9

On a recent visit to the Shibuya ward office, or Shibuya city (these days Tokyo wards are often renaming themselves as cities), to renew my Japanese work visa, I noticed that the gaikokujin töroku area had changed its English sign from “alien registration” to “foreigners [sic] registration.” The registration area was still hidden away in a kind of alcove not easily visible from...

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1. Translating the Alien: Tsubouchi Shōyō and Shakespeare

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pp. 10-42

One of the most significant events in the history of modern Japan occurred in 1854 when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Edo accompanied by a powerful naval fleet with the express mission of opening Japan to the West. The last in a long line of Western attempts to prise open Japan to Western trade and commerce, it can easily be surmised from the well-armed...

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2. Naturalizing the Alien: Yosano Akiko’s Revolution in Verse

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pp. 43-72

In the late nineteenth century one of the last bastions of Japanese tradition, the waka, the dominant genre of traditional Japanese poetry and a mode of writing that constituted the mainstream of Japanese literature from ancient times, was breached by the irruption of Western poetry and poetics. Western poetry was seen as alien to the spirit of traditional Japanese verse, which has...

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3. The Demon Within: Yosano Akiko and Motherhood

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pp. 73-96

A reconceptualization of motherhood emerged at a decisive moment in the history of modern Japan—the end of the first decade of the twentieth century—through the writings of the poet Yosano Akiko on childbirth. Akiko’s verse represents the processing of a self, the poet’s unique self, into public textual form via the expression of her own experience of giving...

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4. The Gothic Novel: Izumi Kyōka and Tanizaki Jun’ichirō

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pp. 97-125

The gothic mode of fiction began in Europe, specifically in England, in the eighteenth century. However, the gothic as a mode of fantasy has persisted until the present day, and it has now spread beyond the novel to encompass several other art forms, most notably, in recent times, the cinema. The characteristics of Gothic fiction in the eighteenth century were the...

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5. Gothic Stylistics: Arishima Takeo and Melodramatic Excess

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pp. 126-139

The connection between the gothic and the melodramatic mode of writing is how a foreign style of writing, indeed a foreign mode of expression, came to dominate Arishima Takeo’s (1878–1923) fiction. It was in this sense that Arishima incorporated elements of the gothic in his fiction although the sources of this style lie not only in Western literature but in Edo literature...

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6. Female Shamans: Ōshiro Tatsuhiro and Yuta

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pp. 140-154

Hitherto this book has examined examples of the “other” or the “alien” taken from the prewar corpus of mainstream Japanese literature, or more properly, literature from mainland Japan. This chapter studies an example of postwar literature written in Okinawa, by a writer born, raised, and resident in Okinawa.¹ Okinawa here means the prefecture of Okinawa, not...

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7. History/Fiction/Identity: Ōshiro Tatsuhiro and the Uncanny

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pp. 155-177

Chapter 6 explored Öshiro Tatsuhiro’s vision of yuta, the female shamans of Okinawa, but this chapter is concerned with noro, women who in some respects have played similar roles to yuta, but whose significance for Okinawan history was much more momentous. There is no mainland equivalent in medieval or modern Japanese history to noro, although some similarities may...

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8. The Alien Without: Murakami Haruki and the Sydney Olympics

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pp. 178-200

This chapter will focus on a single volume by the acclaimed Japanese author Murakami Haruki (b. 1949)—Shidonii! (Sydney!)—published in January 2001 by the Bungei Shunjü company in Tokyo. Three-quarters of this 409-page book, published originally as a single volume and then in two volumes in paperback, consists of Murakami’s...

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pp. 201-205

The subject of the exotic or the alien is a perennial one for literature. Freud’s discussion of the uncanny is primarily aesthetic, based on a reading of several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European works of literature. Gothic is a mode of writing that dates back over two hundred years, so to analyze several works of Japanese literature written in the twentieth century...


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pp. 207-229


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pp. 231-250


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pp. 251-257

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864576
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824832926

Publication Year: 2009