The Body and Modes of Embodiment in Japanese Literature of the Modern and Contemporary Era

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: The Body and Modes of Embodiment in Japanese Literature of the Modern and Contemporary Era
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Lei Hu, Washington University in St. Louis, United States (organizer, presenter)
Aaron Jasny, University of Maryland Global Campus, Japan (presenter)
Lucile Druet, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan (presenter)
Kazue Harada, Miami University, United States (presenter)
Daniel Poch, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (discussant, chair)


In the past few decades, modern Japanese literary specialists, in their scholarships on the body and modes of embodiment, have significantly broadened our knowledge and understanding of Japanese literature. How does Japanese literature reflect, construct, reevaluate and question the phenomenon of Japanese modernity, which is manifested in various forms of the body and bodily experiences? The four papers that comprise the proposed panel, which span the prewar to the contemporary, explore a range of literary narratives — mountaineering, musical performance, women’s fashion, and biomedical experimentation. They collectively demonstrate how the performance and performativity of the body and its embodiments enrich our understanding of the nation’s past.
Aaron Jasny studies how Meiji period (1868-1912) mountaineers performatively construct a modern way of understanding the national space in their bodily experience with Japan’s wild mountain landscape. Lei Hu, in her discussion of Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s "Some Prefer Nettles" (1929), demonstrates how idealization of Edo period (1603-1868) musical performance points to the author’s interesting role in the “return to Japan” movement of the 1920s and 30s. Her paper relates to Lucile Druet’s, which investigates how modern womanhood is expressed and performed through the choice of kimono made by women who appear in Ariyoshi Sawako’s family saga "The River Ki" (1959), and Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s novels. Finally, Kazue Harada analyzes the performativity of the colonial body in Ueda Sayuri's "The King of Ruin" (2018). She examines how the novel’s exploration of biomedical experimentation on human subjects during WWII reevaluates Japanese masculinity in the past and present.