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Women Adrift

The Literature of Japan’s Imperial Body

2011
Author:

Noriko J. Horiguchi

Women Adrift

How women figured in the expansion of the national body of the Japanese empire

Women Adrift demonstrates how women’s actions and representations of women’s bodies redrew the border and expanded, rather than transcended, the empire of Japan. Discussions of empire building in Japan routinely employ the idea of kokutai—the national body—to conceptualize Japan as a nation-state. Noriko J. Horiguchi shows how women impacted this notion, affecting perceptions of the national body.

Women Adrift is a rigorous, sophisticated, and nuanced investigation that refuses to reduce the complexity of the issues it raises to platitudes and fixed assumptions about the nature of colonialism in general, women’s writing under the gaze of empire in particular.

Akira Mizuta Lippit, University of Southern California

Women’s bodies contributed to the expansion of the Japanese empire. With this bold opening, Noriko J. Horiguchi sets out in Women Adrift to show how women’s actions and representations of women’s bodies redrew the border and expanded, rather than transcended, the empire of Japan.

Discussions of empire building in Japan routinely employ the idea of kokutai—the national body—as a way of conceptualizing Japan as a nation-state. Women Adrift demonstrates how women impacted this notion, and how women’s actions affected perceptions of the national body. Horiguchi broadens the debate over Japanese women’s agency by focusing on works that move between naichi, the inner territory of the empire of Japan, and gaichi, the outer territory; specifically, she analyzes the boundary-crossing writings of three prominent female authors: Yosano Akiko (1878–1942), Tamura Toshiko (1884–1945), and Hayashi Fumiko (1904–1951). In these examples—and in Naruse Mikio’s postwar film adaptations of Hayashi’s work—Horiguchi reveals how these writers asserted their own agency by transgressing the borders of nation and gender. At the same time, we see how their work, conducted under various colonial conditions, ended up reinforcing Japanese nationalism, racialism, and imperial expansion.

In her reappraisal of the paradoxical positions of these women writers, Horiguchi complicates narratives of Japanese empire and of women’s role in its expansion.

Women Adrift

Noriko J. Horiguchi is associate professor of modern Japanese literature at the University of Tennessee.

Women Adrift

Women Adrift is a rigorous, sophisticated, and nuanced investigation that refuses to reduce the complexity of the issues it raises to platitudes and fixed assumptions about the nature of colonialism in general, women’s writing under the gaze of empire in particular.

Akira Mizuta Lippit, University of Southern California

Noriko J. Horiguchi’s study, by focusing on the material and discursive bodies of these famous women writers, not only sheds new light on the complexity and uses of kokutai ideology, but also pushes us to rethink our assessment of their bodies of works.

Jan Bardsley, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Enables readers to consider these writers in a new and fresh light... Recommended.

Choice

While Horiguchi's work, Women Adrift: The Literature of Japan's Imperial Body, contributes to the extant discourse on the three women writers' work from a literary perspective, her intermixing of biographical, historical and popular subject matter, as well as her foray into film criticism at the end of the book, ensures that her work contributes to a variety of fields, including women's studies, Japanese history, film studies, studies of nationalism, memory studies and feminist studies.

Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific

Interweaving her exploration of these texts with discussions of migration, female embodiment, and nation-building, she offers an approach that is novel and nuanced and that underscores the complexities of women and empire. Her work makes a significant contribution to studies of women’s literature, modernism, colonialism, and empire.

Monumenta Nipponica

Women Adrift

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Japanese Women and Imperial Expansion

1. Japan as a Body
2. The Universal Womb
3. Resistance and Conformity
4. Behind the Guns: Yosano Akiko
5. Self-Imposed Exile: Tamura Toshiko
6. Wandering on the Periphery: Hayashi Fumiko

Conclusion: From Literary to Visual Memory of Empire

Notes
Bibliography
Index