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Intersections reviews Writing the Love of Boys

By Mark McHarry
  1. angles_writing coverEdogawa Ranpo (1894–1965) and Inagaki Taruho (1900–1977) were widely read in early twentieth-century Japan. Murayama Kaita's (1896–1919) works would prove influential among other authors. Writing the Love of Boys shows how they sought new ways to describe non-heteronormative sexuality in literature, and in so doing developed an aestheticism that would be taken up, in part, by boys' love.[2] Of the three, and in English, Ranpo's works may be the most anthologised, but his keen interest in male homoeroticism is not widely known, and the homoerotic writings of Kaita and Taruho perhaps less so. Jeffrey Angles situates their work in modernist Japanese literature, mainly during the Taishō (1912–1926) and pre-war Shōwa (1926–1989) periods. His book is a fascinating glimpse of male-male desire in literature at a time of cultural and political ferment in Japan, and well worth reading by anyone interested in Japanese modernism, Japanese homoeroticism, or boys' love.[3]
  2. Newly-developed western theories of psychology and a proliferation of newly discovered sex perversions gained currency in Japan during the Meiji period (1868–1912). Among their effects was the creation of new discourses of eroticism that attempted to supersede those which valorised age-discrepant relationships among males. Angles selected Kaita, Ranpo and Taruho as subjects partly because 'they were some of the most outspoken and prolific authors to deal with male-desire in Japan' during the interwar period (p. 16). He looks at their backgrounds and education, and their work and its reception, in describing how they developed representations of 'schoolboy innocence, acute aestheticism and almost "decadently" strong expressions of personal passion' (p. 2). In a concluding chapter, Angles examines how some of these tropes of 'romanticized expressions of schoolboy desire' (p. 1) may be seen in shōjo (girls) manga beginning in the 1970s.


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Writing the Love of Boys