P47. Topics in Modern Japanese Literature

Session: Session 6, 2:00 – 3:30 pm, Saturday 9/30

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Technology

Chair: Tsutomu Nagata (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: Anne Sokolsky (Denison University), Chie Tokuyama (Carleton College), Yue Wang (Washington University in St. Louis)

“Taiwan no shojo” (1944): Imperialization, Language Education, and a Young Girl’s Voice in Colonial Taiwan

Speaker: Anne Sokolsky
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Denison University
Abstract: Taiwan no shōjo (A young girl of Taiwan, 1944) written in Japanese by Huang Fengzi (1928 – ?) is an important source by which to understand what life was like for young Taiwanese girls in Japanese ruled Taiwan (1895-1945). The memoir consists of four parts: “News from Taiwan,” “Life in Wanhua,” “News from Japan, and “My Childhood.” The first part is in the form of a letter to Huang’s father who was teaching in Japan at the time. The second part consists of two essays that Huang Fengzi wrote for a writing contest judged by the Taiwan folklorist Nishikawa Mitsuru. The third part details a school trip she took to Japan. The final section is about her childhood and details her experience learning Japanese (or kokugo). Satō Haruo wrote the preface and Ikeda Toshio wrote the afterword to Taiwan no shōjo. Satō Haruo praised the work as proof that the Japanese colonial government’s kokugo program in Taiwan was a success. In his afterword, Ikeda Toshio argued Taiwan no shōjo was important because of the details it provided about Taiwanese customs and daily life. In this paper, I will discuss my translation of Taiwan no shōjo and provide examples from the text that reveal the varied experiences, both positive and negative, this young girl had in Japanese ruled Taiwan.

Beauty as Aesthetic Empathy: Modern Aesthetics in Meiji Literary Theories

Speaker: Chie Tokuyama
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Carleton College
Abstract: What is beauty? Why does beauty evoke pleasure and what comprises our aesthetic feeling of the beautiful? What use does the appreciation of the beautiful in the fine arts have in our life? The present study explores how Japanese literary theorists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries grappled with these questions in their attempt to establish literature as an independent field dedicated to humanistic inquiry and to justify the value of “imaginative writing” as a crucial medium that contributes to fostering morality of the nation. The study demonstrates the process in which the Japanese domestication of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Western aesthetics paved way for the birth of a modern conception of beauty (bi)—a feeling of pleasure akin to religious ecstasy that results from the empathic fusion between the perceiving subject and the perceived object (in nature or art). By reframing beauty as a keyword for the aesthetic means to enable vicarious experience—an empathic state triggered in response to the observation of animate expressions of life of others, the study explores the crucial role that the aesthetic concept of beauty played in cultivating empathic relatedness to others, serving as the potential antidote against the tide of individualism, conflicts of interests, and egotism pertinent to the emergent issues of Meiji modernity.

Time for a Music Bath: Body, Control, and Subversion in Unno Jūza’s Literary Dystopia

Speaker: Yue Wang
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Washington University in St. Louis
Abstract: Japanese writer Unno Jūza (1897-1949) published the story “Music Bath at Eighteen o’clock” (Jūhachiji no ongakuyoku, henceforth “Music Bath”) in 1937, in which he envisions a future where the use of science, utopian desires, and dystopian realities intertwine. Paradoxically, Unno, a rigorous supporter of imperial Japan, consistently produces stories such as “Music Bath” about how unchecked use of technology destroys humanity. This paper examines Unno’s dystopia and its efforts to control bodies and minds, and his message on scientific ethicality. I argue that “Music Bath” cannot only be interpreted as a propagandist story advocating for scientific progress in militarism; it is also a political satire modeled on 1930s Japan warning us about utopian desires and abuse of technology. Unno’s dystopia shows us that utopian perfection can never be realized without the devastating loss in human lives, identity, and morality.