What is the connection between the United States' imbalance of trade with Japan and the imbalance of translation in the other direction? Between Western literary critics' estimates of Japanese fiction and Japanese politicians' "America-bashing"? Between the portrayal of East-West relations in the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and the terms of the GATT trade agreements?In this provocative study, Masao Miyoshi deliberately adopts an off-center perspective--one that restores the historical asymmetry of encounters between Japan and the United States, from Commodore Perry to Douglas MacArthur--to investigate the blindness that has characterized relations between the two cultures.Both nations are blinkered by complementary forms of ethnocentricity. The United States--or, more broadly, the Eurocentric West--believes its culture to be universal, while Japan believes its culture to be essentially unique. Thus American critics read and judge Japanese literature by the standards of the Western novel; Japanese politicians pay lip service to "free trade" while supporting protectionist policies at home and abroad.Miyoshi takes off from literature to range across culture, politics, and economics in his analysis of the Japanese and their reflections in the West; the fiction of Tanizaki, Mishima, Oe; trade negotiations; Japan bashing and America bashing; Emperor worship; Japanese feminist writing; the domination of transcribed conversation as a literary form in contemporary Japan. In his confrontation with cultural critics, Miyoshi does not spare "centrists" of either persuasion, nor those who refuse to recognize that "the literary and the economical, the cultural and the industrial, are inseparable."Yet contentious as this book can be, it ultimately holds out, by its example, hope for a criticism that can see beyond the boundaries of national cultures--without substituting a historically false "universal" culture--and that examines cultural convergences from a viewpoint that remains provocatively and fruitfully off center.
Images of the city in literature and film help constitute the experience of modern life. Studies of the Japanese city have focused on Tokyo, but a fuller understanding of urban space and life requires analysis of other cities, beginning with Osaka. Japan’s “merchant capital” in the late sixteenth century, Osaka remained an industrial center—the “Manchester of the East”—into the 1930s, developing a distinct urban culture to rival Tokyo’s. It therefore represents a critical site of East Asian modernity. Osaka Modern maps the city as imagined in Japanese popular culture from the 1920s to the 1950s, a city that betrayed the workings of imperialism and asserted an urban identity alternative to—even subversive of—national identity.Osaka Modern brings an appreciation of this imagined city’s emphatic locality to: popular novels by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, favorite son Oda Sakunosuke, and best-seller Yamasaki Toyoko; films by Toyoda Shirō and Kawashima Yūzō; and contemporary radio, television, music, and comedy. Its interdisciplinary approach creates intersections between Osaka and various theoretical concerns—everyday life, coloniality, masculinity, translation—to produce not only a fresh appreciation of key works of literature and cinema, but also a new focus for these widely-used critical approaches.
The writer Nakagami Kenji (1946-1992) rose to fame in the mid-1970s for his vivid stories about a clan scarred by violence and poverty on the underside of the Japanese economic miracle. Drawing upon the lives, experiences, and languages of the burakumin, the outcaste communities long discriminated against in Japanese society as a defiled underclass, Nakagami's works of fiction and nonfiction record with vitality and violence the realities—actual and imagined—of buraku culture.In this critical study of Nakagami's life and oeuvre, Eve Zimmerman delves into the writer's literary world, exploring the genres, forms, and themes with which Nakagami worked and experimented. These chapters trace the biographical thread running through his works while foregrounding such diverse facets of his writing as his interest in the modern possibilities of traditional myths and forms of storytelling, his deployment of shocking tropes and images, and his crafting of a unique poetic language.By bringing to the fore the literary urgency and social engagement that informed all aspects of Nakagami's creative and intellectual production, from his works of prose and poetry to his criticism, this book argues eloquently and effectively for us to appreciate Nakagami as a distinctive and relevant voice in modern Japanese literature.
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