Three-Dimensional Reading: Modernism and Spatial Configuration in Interwar Japanese Fiction (1910s-1930s)
Angela Yiu (FLA), Email: email@example.com
a. goal and basic research questions:
This work-in-progress book project examines the development of modernist techniques and content in the representation of space in Interwar Japanese Fiction (1910s-1930s). Sandwiched between the upward thrust of nation-building Meiji (1868-1912) and the dark war years of Shôwa (1926-1988) was a vivacious period in which writers experimented with a protean modernist style to capture a vanishing past and envision a futuristic urban space that is at once utopian and dystopian. The development of mass consumer culture and a moneyed capital stimulated the publication of many new and experimental journals that became the venues for the debut and development of nouveau art and literary movements, such as the Neo Perceptionist School (Shinkankaku-ha), the New Art School (Shikô geijutsu-ha), the Proletarian School, and mass literature (taishû bungaku). Meanwhile, the frantic development of Tokyo as a leading modern metropolis in Asia to rival the capitals in the West, and the expansionist vision of the Imperial state to extend its colonial transformation of other Asian cities into model modern metropolises (e.g. Dalian as Paris of the East) continued to tease the imagination of experimental writers who developed narrative strategies and a language drawn from new forms of visual representation to reconfigure space. The result is the mind-bending urban representation in art and literary texts that captured the phantasmagoria of an urban space that is at once fantastical, futurological, haunting, and cautionary, in a language that is cubist (i.e. that aims at the flattening and distortion of space), anti-realism, anti-naturalism. It is a language that is disorienting because of its formal disruption but also exhilarating and engaging for the same reason.
Incorporating images created by the contemporary artist Sakaguchi Kyôhei (See Attachment 1), this book project of translation, visual art, and critical essays will examine a selection of short fiction in three tropes: 1. Pathological interiority in spatial configuration; 2. Utopia and dystopia in colonial spatial imagination; 3. Fragmented Tokyo as phantasmagoria. Included in the selection are writers such as Akutagawa Ryûnosuke, Hori Tatsuo, Satô Haruo, Uno Kôji, Tanizaki Jun'ichirô, Kawabata Yasunari, Inagaki Taruho, Edogawa Ranpo and others, writers whose work reveal a keen understanding of the inextricable relationship between art, politics, ideology and spatial configuration in literature. (See Attachment 2 for details of selected works).
Some of these are well-known writers in and outside Japan, but until recently their works had not been studied as modernist texts, at least not in the existing Euro-centric understanding of the movement. One of the goals of this project is to rethink the parameters of international or global modernism by re-examining these works in comparison to existing critical literature on modernism and urban representation, as exemplified by the sustained critical interest in the Baudelarian and Benjaminian flaneur and the modernist texts by James Joyce, T.S.Eliot, André Gide, and Virginia Woolf.
b. Analytical Framework:
One major goal of this project is to rethink the parameters of international or global modernism. Even in this advanced stage of the study of Japanese/Asian literature when we can safely claimed that we are no longer operating under the easy allure of Orientalism, the study of modernism has until recently been marked by Euro-centrism, in the sense that Western European modernism has been considered a unilateral source of influence and authority, not to mention that the critical language has until now relied heavily on the Anglo-centric idiom of criticism. The worthiness of anything that does not fit the Euro-centric mode is held in doubt and often rejected before it was fully examined. This project is a response to the pioneering work by the late William Tyler, whose book Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan 1913-1938 (U of Hawaii Press, 2008) placed the study of Japanese modernism on the map of a global contextualization of the artistic and ideological movement and opened future dialogic possibilities to understand modernism beyond the Western model.
c. Research methods:M/
The discourse in analyzing modernist texts comes in many forms, many of which fall under the rubrics of formalism, ideology, and historicity. A formalistic approach focuses on narrative strategies, techniques, and modernist sensibilities and is important in identifying the aesthetic quality of a text, though it sometimes runs the risk of sanitizing literature of its political implication and content.
An ideological approach, on the other hand, treats modernism as an ideology rather than a nouveau aesthetic expression and focuses on its various forms and degrees of inversion and subversion in the discourse on gender, politics, power, Orientalism, Nihonjinron theories of culture, etc.
A historical approach examines the period in which modernism blossomed in Japan as well as in the rest of the world as a simultaneous movement from roughly 1910-1940 and takes into consideration its social and geopolitical contexts as well as its simultaneity (dôjisei). That the modernist movement should take place in the interwar years in modern metropolises was not a mere coincident. The development of modernism in Japan, as in the West, coincided with the build-up of the empire in the 1910s-1930s. Signs of a rising empire were evident in the rapid growth of a modern metropolis and urban space that embraced a moneyed capital, mass culture, and new forms of the media (radio, cinema, visual propaganda). The imperial powers in London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo were not only intensely competing to build the most modern metropolis, they were also vying with one another to spread their utopian/colonial dreams to transform other cities into the image of the empire: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dalian, Qingdao were just some of the urban configurations to materialize under the colonial expansion.
To examine modernism in the Japanese context we have to ask the questions: what did the Japanese have in mind when they thought and wrote about the modan? What was the landscape, or more specifically, the urban space that they were looking at? What was the geopolitical space that encapsulated the movement, and was it unique or ubiquitous?
Thus to examine the urban configurations (interior and exterior environments) in modernist texts in the interwar years allows one to consider all three rubrics of the modernist discourse: the formalistic approach addresses how urban space is re-configured in art and literature to emphasize the allure of expansionism on the one hand and pose a warning of its dangerous consequences on the other; the ideological approach examines the role of art in the subversion of or complicity with the dominant culture or ideology; finally, historicity serves as the basis of comparison for vastly different urban configurations by examining one common denominator of the modernist movement, which is the hegemonic spread of the modern metropolis and the simultaneity of that movement.
The translation of Japanese modernist texts is vital in adding to the still inadequate list of non-Western modernist texts for the international reader, student, and scholar, in the hope of stimulating further intellectual interest in and critical response to the subject of modernism as a global movement.
d. Expected Outcomes:
One book-length manuscript (estimated 350 pages), one small workshop (first year), one more substantial workshop (second year). For details, see below under Item 5 "Plans for presentation of research finding.
e. Potential implications of research findings:
The study of Modernism in Japanese literature has only started about a decade ago, and the only substantial book-length work so far is William Tyler's Modanizumu (2008). This book project will add to the repertoire of modernist works to be available in translation for scholars and students of modernism, enhance the understanding of modernism as a global intellectual, literary, artistic movement beyond the Western model, and introduce a new form of cross and multi-discipline academic work by incorporating original art work with the translations and critical essays. It will also show the impact of interwar literary sensibilities on the current artistic and intellectual imagination and foster a dialogic and dialectic interaction across the border of time and place.
Names of FLA and outside Sophia participants
Angela Yiu (principal applicant) (ext. 4030; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kono Shion (ext. 4054; email: email@example.com)
Hayashi Michio (ext. 4039; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Outside participants (confirmed):
Sakaguchi Kyôhei (artist)
Elaine Gerbert (East Asian Languages and Literature, U of Kansas)
Kyoko Kurita (East Asian Studies, Pomona College)
Dan O'Neill (East Asian Languages and Culture, UC Berkeley)
Plans for presentation of findings:
a (i). In the first academic year (2009-10), one small-scale workshop for FLA/ICC members, in-town translators, the artist Sakaguchi, interested faculty members of other faculties (e.g. kokubungaku), and graduate students of GSGS to discuss the work-in-progress project. The aim is threefold: 1. For participants of the project to touch base, share ideas and raise questions; 2. As an educational workshop for graduate students to learn about the modernist movement and the process of putting together a book project; 3. For inter-faculty exchange on a faculty and student level among the FLA, GSGS, and other interested Sophia faculties. Possible title of workshop: Global Modernism. Possible date: July or January.
a (ii). To present findings at the Asian Studies Conference Japan (June 2009) and the Association for Asian Studies (March 2010).
a (iii). In the second academic year (2010-2011), if funding permits, to hold a more substantial workshop with selected international and Tokyo-based participants of the project to present and discuss the book project in an more advanced stage of preparation. This will also be designed with educational and inter-faculty exchange in mind.
b. tentative list of potential speakers and participants for the 2009 workshop: Sakaguchi Kyôhei (artist), Suzuki Sadami (from Nichibunken), Kawamoto Saburo (literary critic) (Suzuki and Kawamoto are the editors of the 10-volume Modan toshi bungaku [1989-1991, The Literature of the Modern City]), in-town translators and interested scholars, faculty and graduate students (from GPGS and others). Confirmed overseas participants as of April 1, 2009: Dr. Kyoko Kurita, Dr. Dan O'Neill, Dr. Alisa Freedman, Dr. Indra Levy (see under item 4 for affiliations).
c. Plans for publication: A book-length manuscript (estimated 350 pages) with translations (12-14 stories), one introduction of the literary selection (Yiu), one introduction of the artist and his work (Hayashi), three prefaces for each of the categories of texts (Yiu), brief explanation of each story, 12-14 original images by the artist Sakaguchi, bibliography, index. Targeted date for book contract: March 2010; targeted date for publication: 2011.
Selected Relevant Publications:
a. Angela Yiu
"Beautiful Town: The Discovery of the Suburbs and the Vision of the Garden City in Late Meiji and Taisho Literature." Japan Forum Vol. 18, No. 3 (November 2006), pp. 315-339.
"From Utopia to Empire: Atarashikimura and the Greater East Asia War." Utopia Studies, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Fall 2008), pp. 213-233. "A New Map of Hell: Satô Haruo's Dystopian Fiction" in a special issue titled "Tokyo Nonsense in the Interwar Era." Japan Forum Vol. 21, No. 3 (June 2009) (forthcoming).
b. Kono Shion
Azuma Hiroyuki. Otaku: Japan's Database Animals. Translated by Kono Shion and Jonathan Abel. University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
c. Hayashi Michio
Painting Dies Twice, or Never, Vol. 1-4. Tokyo: Art Trace, 2003-
d. Sakaguchi Kyôhei
Zero Yen House. London: Little More, 2004.