Modern Japanese Literature

Lecture, Open—Spring

This lecture course is an introduction to Japanese literature spanning the 20th century. We will move chronologically to consider how writers represented Japanese modernity in its varied forms. As Japan’s borders shifted dramatically from prewar and wartime imperialism to postwar occupation, its writers radically scrutinized the meanings of Japanese collective and individual identities. We will examine different tensions evident in writings ranging from a critique of “backward” social caste ideology in Shimazaki Tōson’s The Broken Commandment, to a mockery of Japan’s idolization of Western culture in Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s Naomi, and to the moral imperative of the writer as atomic bomb survivor and witness in Ōta Yōko’s City of Corpses. We will carefully and critically read these major writers and examine how they questioned the connections between place, history, memory, and identity. Other writers whom we will read include Natsume Sōseki, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Kawabata Yasunari, Mishima Yukio, Enchi Fumiko, Ōe Kenzaburō, Abe Kōbō, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki.