Be a Woman: Hayashi Fumiko and Modern Japanese Women's Literature

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University of Hawai'i Press, 1997 - Literary Collections - 273 pages
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Ericson reviews the role of gender in classical and early modern Japanese literary traditions, examining the preeminent position of women writers in the classical canon and the virtual eclipse of women's voices prior to their reemergence in the modern era. Her assessment of recent feminist debates that shifted the terminology used to categorize writing by women leads her to an original interpretation of the origins and significance of the concept of women's literature. Utilizing sources in both Japanese and Western languages, Ericson interprets the crystallization in the 1920s of the category "women's literature" by considering both literary aesthetics by gender shifted with the growth of women's journals, the increasing sophistication of female readers, and the greater disposable income of working women and housewives. Her approach adds to the recent Japanese feminist discovery of male patrons editing the work of women writers to conform to expectations of femininity by relating gendered institutional practices in the publishing industry to the rise of mass female readership and the increasingly polarized environment in politics and the arts. A close scrutiny of Hayashi Fumiko's work - in particular the two pieces masterfully translated here, the immensely popular novel Horoki (Diary of a Vagabond) and Suisen (Narcissus) - shows the inadequacies of categorizing her writings as "women's literature".

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