The New Japanese Love Novel

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Stanford University, 2019
My dissertation confronts the contemporary genre of Japanese love novels. Specifically, I consider four postwar women writers and demonstrate the collective power of their works to reimagine the idea and ideals of love. The protagonists in these works find romance transient and unfulfilling, reject marriage and negate the romantic love ideology that positions marriage as the desirable culmination of heterosexual love. Methodologically, I study how a text's material form influences its interpretation and shapes its audience. Three of the texts I analyze began as serializations in newspapers, weekly magazines or even fashion magazines. Thus, when examined as part of their initial publication venue, these texts illuminate some of the mechanisms of literary production. They challenge the notion of single authorship, as serialized texts are the common enterprise of an author and the periodical's editor. Readers' responses also illustrate how reading a serialization and reading the same texts in a single volume constitute fundamentally different experiences, that require different temporal engagements with the text. Another material element that I investigate in detail is the obi, or book-belt, which is a narrow slip of paper wrapped around the cover of Japanese books. The obi is essentially an advertisement designed to attract consumers' attention. It is a creature of the bookstore and would not be found on the same book in a library. Thus, one methodological contribution of my research is to consider the bookstore -- as opposed to the library -- as a forum for literary engagement. I show how the genre of a work emerges as text, material form, consumers, and publishers converse within this forum. The first chapter analyzes Setouchi Harumi's early work "Kashin" (The Floral Core, 1957), which unapologetically narrates the adulterous relationship of a married woman and which drew considerable backlash from critics upon its publication. Although it is now advertised as "love literature, " I argue that the work is in fact a late example of nikutai bungaku (literature of the flesh) that never received the appreciation it deserves. The second chapter traces the publication history of Tanabe Seiko's novel Iiyoru (Seduction, 1973) and its transformation from a work of soft-pornography serialized in a weekly magazine for men to a work advertised as a "love novel" and praised for its feminist message. The next chapter examines Hayashi Mariko's novel Anego (Big Sis, 2003) as an expression of postfeminist dilemmas, reflected in the character's longing for emotional and financial dependence, despite her status as self-reliant working woman. The last chapter studies Yuikawa Kei's love novel Katagoshi no koibito (Sweetheart Over the Shoulder, 2001). This work presents the fragility of romance and the stability of female friendship, which, as I demonstrate, is a theme inherited from the older and established genre of girls' novels.

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