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Hayter, Irena E. (2008) Words fall apart : The politics of form in 1930s Japanese fiction. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis presents an analysis of Japanese modernist texts from the 1930s, with an emphasis on the writings of Takami Jun (1907-1965), Ishikawa Jun (1899-1987) and Dazai Osamu (1909-1948). Rather than discuss these experiments within the problematic of influence and see them as secondary gestures imitating the techniques of Gide or Joyce, I attempt to show that Japanese modernist fiction is deeply implicated in its cultural, political and technological moment. 1 begin with a mapping of the historical and discursive forces behind the so-called cultural revival (bungei fukko) and the revolt against the epistemic regime of Westernized modernity: its soulless positivism, its logic of instrumentality which objectified nature and the historical teleologies which inevitably relegated Japan to a secondary place. I examine the works of Takami, Ishikawa and Dazai in this context, against close-ups of specific material and discursive developments. The transgressions and dislocations of linear narrative in Takami Jun's novel Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Kokyu wasureu beki, 1936) are read as radical deconstructions of the deeply ideological discourse of tenko (the official term for the political conversion of leftists) as a regeneration of the self, as the return to a natural organic Japaneseness. The narrative of Ishikawa Jun's Fugen (Fugen, 1936) is structured by dualistic tropes which can be seen as configurations of mediation and unity; I explore the meaning of these narrative strategies against the collapse of political mediation in the mid-1930s and the swell of fascist longings for oneness with the emperor. The marked reflexivity of the stories in Dazai Osamu's first published collection The Final Years (Bannen, 1936) is discussed in the context of the profound anxieties generated by the accelerated logic of cultural reproduction and the technologically altered texture of experience. I argue that in their shared emphasis on discursive mediation and the materiality of language, the texts of Takami, Ishikawa and Dazai become figures of resistance to a nativism which strove for immediate authenticity and abandoned representation for the metaphysics of timeless Japaneseness.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:10

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