Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Subverting Language: Japanese Modernism, Modernity, and Linguistic Critique
by Mitchell, Arthur Moncrieffe, IV, Ph.D., Yale University, 2012, 222; 3525376
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation reconsiders the relation between literary modernism and modernity by examining how Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Yokomitsu Riichi, and Kawabata Yasunari used experiments in language and narrative to critique ideologies of modernization. It explores the ways these writers manipulated readerly expectations and everyday social language in order to overturn the communicative norms, or the pragmatic linguistic functions, of capitalist society. It will show how modernist writers embraced the medium of language as a means to examine and displace the ideological prescriptions of socio-economic progress and how through this displacement their works are expressive of the historical experience that is Japanese modernity. Understood in this capacity, modernist texts present a way to get beyond ideas of essentialized national culture or a singular cultural sensibility and thus offer a more sophisticated way of exploring the experience of a foreign culture and understanding our own.

Chapter 1 shows how Tanizaki Jun'ichirĊ's A Fool's Love directly critiques the discourse of the middle class reform movements that emerged in the early 1920s and employs the language of Hollywood film to expose the way progressively "Western" ideas of love and marriage were in fact grounded in the ideologies of modernization. Chapter 2 focuses on the aftermath of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake as an essential backdrop for Yokomitsu's urban fiction. It argues that his stories proposed an alternate phenomenology of urban experience that directly undermined a disciplinary discourse of self-reflection and self-purification advocated by city planners and literary critics. Finally, chapter 3 examines the nationally sponsored festivals to celebrate the end of the earthquake reconstruction project and how Kawabata's Scarlet Gang of Asakusa employed the language of reportage journalism to achieve a narration of trauma that undermined the state's attempt to efface the past.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Treat, John Whittier, Hill, Christopher Laing
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern literature, Asian literature, World History
Keywords: Japan, Kawabata, Yasunari, Literature, Modernism, Tanizaki, Junichiro, Yokomitsu, Riichi
Publication Number: 3525376
ISBN: 978-1-267-57419-0
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