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The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature

John Whittier Treat

The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature

John Whittier Treat

368 pages | 9 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226545134 Published April 2018
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226811703 Published April 2018
E-book $10.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226545271 Published April 2018
The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature tells the story of Japanese literature from its start in the 1870s against the backdrop of a rapidly coalescing modern nation to the present. John Whittier Treat takes up both canonical and forgotten works, the non-literary as well as the literary, and pays special attention to the Japanese state’s hand in shaping literature throughout the country’s nineteenth-century industrialization, a half-century of empire and war, its post-1945 reconstruction, and the challenges of the twenty-first century to modern nationhood.
 
Beginning with journalistic accounts of female criminals in the aftermath of the Meiji civil war, Treat moves on to explore how woman novelist Higuchi Ichiyō’s stories engaged with modern liberal economics, sex work, and marriage; credits Natsume Sōseki’s satire I Am a Cat with the triumph of print over orality in the early twentieth century; and links narcissism in the visual arts with that of the Japanese I-novel on the eve of the country’s turn to militarism in the 1930s. From imperialism to Americanization and the new media of television and manga, from boogie-woogie music to Yoshimoto Banana and Murakami Haruki, Treat traces the stories Japanese audiences expected literature to tell and those they did not. The book concludes with a classic of Japanese science fiction a description of present-day crises writers face in a Japan hobbled by a changing economy and unprecedented natural and manmade catastrophes. The Rise and Fall of Japanese Literature reinterprets the “end of literature”—a phrase heard often in Japan—as a clarion call to understand how literary culture worldwide now teeters on a historic precipice, one at which Japan’s writers may have arrived just a moment before the rest of us.
 
Contents
Introduction. Modern, Japanese, Literary, History
Chapter One. Bird-Chasing Omatsu
Chapter Two. Midori’s Choice
Chapter Three. Sōseki Kills a Cat
Chapter Four. Narcissus in Taishō
Chapter Five. Imperial Japan’s Worst Writer
Chapter Six. Creole Japan
Chapter Seven. Beheaded Emperors and Absent Figures
Chapter Eight. Reading Comics/Writing Graffiti
Chapter Nine. Yoshimoto Banana in the Kitchen
Chapter Ten. Murakami Haruki and Multiple Personality
Conclusion. Takahashi Gen’ichirō’s Disappearing Future

Acknowledgments
Bibliography
Index
Review Quotes
New York Review of Books
"Treat has chosen literary landmarks that offer him fertile ground for an 'excavation' . . . of the social and economic forces at work on them."
Australian Book Review
"Formidable. . . . Though he does, briefly, engage in textual analysis, Treat is less concerned with what the story says than what it is and what it does. That is, he is interested in its function in the larger context of Japan’s literary development. To this end, Treat takes the reader on a surprising journey that includes the emergence of libel and slander laws, competition between highbrow and lowbrow newspapers, and the occasional mention of Hillary Clinton's alien baby. . . . A very welcome addition, and counterpoint, to the existing body of English-language Japanese literary histories."
Minae Mizumura, author of The Fall of Language in the Age of English
"Erudite but saucy, The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature succeeds in making the history of modern Japanese literature as colorful as the neon-lit back alleys of Tokyo. The book features a broad range of characters, including a Meiji 'poison woman,' Korean nationalists, and a serial killer enamored of anime. As for the final verdict on the future of Japanese literature, Treat wisely leaves it up in the air."
The Journal of Japanese Studies
“Noting the trend in Japanese literary historiography, up to and including the 1980s, to schematize material by historical period and occasionally even by periods of imperial reign, Treat homes in on the all-important truism that a national literary history is also the history of a nation and, as such, inextricably linked with the history of the modern in general. . . . In his open challenge to the conventional wisdom, Treat offers both interesting and readily accessible fodder for the uninitiated and a call for an element of recalibration from those raised, like it or not, on Katō, Keene, and that previous generation of scholars. At the same time, both sets of readers—plus those in between—will be left in no doubt of Treat's conviction that talk of the ‘end of literature’ in Japan is premature.”
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