Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

(M)othering the empire?: A literary study of motherhood in imperial Japan
by Kobayashi, Fumiyo, Ph.D., University of Washington, 2008, 247; 3318207
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation, "(M)othering the Empire?: A Literary Study of Motherhood in Imperial Japan," reads the writing of motherhood in modern Japanese literature. My thesis is that motherhood is a radical entity, which reveals the problematic power relations of self and other that obtain when women seek sexual and reproductive rights.

In my introduction, I provide an outline, informed by post-colonial/feminist criticism, of the thinking about debates of motherhood in imperial Japan. The first chapter describes Harada Satsuki's engagement with abortion in Gokuchû no onna kara otoko e (From a Woman in Prison to a Man, 1915), revealing her success in capturing the voice of working-class women and her failure in dealing with the ethics of mother as self and the fetus as the other. The second chapter sheds light on Takamure Itsue, who questioned eugenics movements during the nineteen twenties through her unique interpretation of motherhood, by focusing on her work Ren'ai sôsei (The Genesis of Romantic Love, 1926). The third chapter illuminates how Okamoto Kanoko demonstrates a critical engagement with the discourse on "Good Wife, Wise Mother" that imperial authorities promoted before and during the Pacific War. In her work, Boshi jojô (Mother's Love, 1937), Okamoto characterizes motherhood as an incessant dialogue with the other. The fourth chapter deals with the writing of naisen kekkon (Japanese/Korean interracial marriage), which emerged during the nineteen thirties and forties. I characterize literary representations of Korean mothers and mothers-to-be with Japanese/Korean interracial children as the unthinkable other in the Japanese empire.

In my conclusion, I use the writing of motherhood to do three things: reconsider the question of nationalism during the Japanese imperial period; identify the non-truth of dominant discourses on motherhood that were presented as truth; and rethink the model of the modern subject, which heretofore has been presumed to be an adult, healthy man, possessed of a unitary and autonomous self.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mack, Edward T.
School: University of Washington
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-A 69/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian literature, Womens studies
Keywords: Eugenics, Harada Satsuki, Interracial marriage, Japan, Japanese literature, Japanese/Korean, Motherhood, Okamoto, Kanoko, Reproductive rights, Self and other, Takamure, Itsue, Women
Publication Number: 3318207
ISBN: 978-0-549-67308-8
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