Modern Japanese Women Writers as Artists as Cultural Critics
Miyamoto, Ōba, Saegusa
Michiko Niikuni Wilson
2016, 188 pages • index • illustrated
ISBN 978-0-9832991-2-7 Paper $35.00
ISBN 978-0-9832991-3-4 Cloth $65.00
“The first translations of ground-breaking essays by three postwar Japanese women writers who expanded the field of literature to embrace criticism of Japanese society and culture. A deeply researched introduction provides an historical context for these trenchant essays, which challenge established views on the woman question and argue for the creation for the equality and partnership of the genders as the basis for the creation of a better society. An indispensable guide to rethinking the relation of the genders in Japan, and in the world.”
—Janet A. Walker, Rutgers University
The subject of this book has not received adequate attention from Japan specialists in North America. Translated and discussed here are critical essays by three of the most innovative, outspoken, and provocative women writers in recent Japanese literary history: Yuriko Miyamoto (1899-1951), Saegusa Kazuko (1929- ), and Minako Ōba (1930-2007) with the objective of, one, presenting a Japan that thrives in and on a multiplicity of voices, in contrast to its conformist image in the West; and, two, filling the critical need for English translations of primary sources aimed, in particular, at non-Japan specialists.
The notion of women as "cultural critics" stretches back to the Heian era (797-1190 ce), and is notably exmplified by Sei Shōnagon's The Pillow Book (992 ce), which, with its wit, barbed references, and no-nonsense comments on life around her, has become part of the Japanese literary canon. Her legacy reappeared after a long hiatus in the generation of women writers who swiftly took advantage of the "Taishō (1911-1926) Democracy."
The "Woman Question" debate in Japan today, which Japanese women view as a basic human rights issue, has been revisited by contemporary Japanese women writers who have also gradually developed a feminist credo that espouses the equality of men and women concomitant with the expansion of the emotional interaction and intellectual interchange between the sexes.
Michiko Niikuni Wilson is Professor of Japanese Language and Literature at the University of Virginia. Her latest translation is Of Birds Crying by Ōba Minako (Cornell East Asian Series, 2011).