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Nagai Kafu's Occidentalism

Defining the Japanese Self

Rachael Hutchinson

Publication Year: 2011

Describes how writer Nagai Kafuµ (1879–1959) used his experience of the West to reconcile modernization and Japanese identity. Nagai Kafuµ (1879–1959) spent more time abroad than any other writer of his generation, firing the Japanese imagination with his visions of America and France. Applying the theoretical framework of Occidentalism to Japanese literature, Rachael Hutchinson explores Kafuµ’s construction of the Western Other, an integral part of his critique of Meiji civilization. Through contrast with the Western Other, Kafuµ was able to solve the dilemma that so plagued Japanese intellectuals—how to modernize and yet retain an authentic Japanese identity in the modern world. Kafuµ’s flexible positioning of imagined spaces like the “West” and the “Orient” ultimately led him to a definition of the Japanese Self. Hutchinson analyzes the wide range of Kafuµ’s work, particularly those novels and stories reflecting Kafuµ’s time in the West and the return to Japan, most largely unknown to Western readers and a number unavailable in English, along with his better-known depictions of Edo’s demimonde. Kafuµ’s place in Japan’s intellectual history and his influence on other writers are also discussed.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Acknowledgements

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pp. vii-ix

The bulk of this volume was completed on a sabbatical supported by a Picker Research Fellowship, granted by the Colgate University Research Council. I owe sincere thanks to Julie Nelson Davis and Cappy Hurst of the University of Pennsylvania Center for East Asian Studies for hosting me as visiting researcher...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

In the opening years of the twentieth century, Japanese intellectuals were faced with a pressing, seemingly unsolvable question. How could Japan modernize without losing its sense of identity, rooted in hundreds of years of aesthetic tradition? In the rapidly changing environment of the Meiji period...

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1. Constructing the "West": Binarism and Complexity in Kafū's America

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pp. 17-58

Nagai Kafū sailed for America on the Shinanomaru on September 22, 1903. Kafū's dream was to travel to France to become a writer, as he had a keen interest in French literature. An acquaintance with the playwright Fukuchi Ōchi had introduced him to the works of Émile Zola in 1900, after which membership...

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2. Imagining Authenticity: Literature and Civilization in Kafū's France

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pp. 59-93

It is clear from the final stages of Amerika monogatari and Kafū's diary of 1906-1908 that it was the literature and lifestyle of France that captivated Kafū in New York. Given his view of America as merely a stepping-stone on the way to France, it is not surprising that the wish to complete his travels weighed heavily...

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3. Positioning the Observer: Kafū's "Orient" and Orientalism

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pp. 95-132

Where Amerika monogatari constructed an image of America through contrast with Japan, and the beginnings of Furansu monogatari saw Kafū reveling in an idealized world of art and aesthetics, the latter part of Furansu monogatari turns to an examination of the wider world as Kafū leaves...

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4. Occidentalism: Contrast and Critique in the Returnee Stories

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pp. 133-171

Through Amerika monogatari and Furansu monogatari, Kafū showed an increasing disillusionment with his home country, first in comparison to America and France, and then as the realization hit him that he must return to Japan. Where the young narrators of Furansu monogatari often...

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5. Resistance: Defining and Preserving the Japanese Self

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pp. 173-233

Nagai Kafū's Returnee Stories laid out a challenge to the Japanese people, to discover the meaning of "Nihon to iu Originalité." Where Kafū's work of 1909-1910 puts forward an argument for preserving Japanese culture in the face of superficial Westernization, his writing after this period shows the working out of this argument...

Notes

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pp. 235-250

Bibliography

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pp. 251-261

Index

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pp. 263-289

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438439082
E-ISBN-10: 1438439083
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438439075
Print-ISBN-10: 1438439075

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Nagai, Kafū, 1879-1959 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Civilization, Western, in literature.
  • East and West in literature.
  • Japan -- In literature.
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