Rural Japanese Gothic: The Topography of Horror in Modern Japanese Literature
Bernard, Peter John
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CitationBernard, Peter John. 2019. Rural Japanese Gothic: The Topography of Horror in Modern Japanese Literature. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractWhy does the countryside seem so haunted in the pages of modern Japanese fiction? In this dissertation, I reassess the importance of non-urban spaces in the history of modern Japanese literature through the concept of the “rural Gothic.” Existing scholarship has fruitfully examined the various ways that Japanese writers have registered the overwhelming effects of modernity through the depiction of urban milieux. But what about non-urban spaces? My project brings to light the ways that the “rural” has functioned as a means to negotiate the delirium of modern experience through a particular nexus of negative affective states—namely, feelings of disquiet, disorientation, and terror that align with the concerns of the Gothic as a literary mode. Drawing on a broad body of modern literary texts that link the Japanese countryside with what I identify as a Gothic rhetoric, I identify a series of historical moments wherein these texts may be read as explorations of a particularly rural modernity.
The dissertation comprises four chapters. In Chapter One, I consider short prose fiction by Sasaki Kizen to uncover early experiments in thinking the rural in Gothic terms. The haunting texts produced by Kizen before Yanagita Kunio’s epistemological system of minzokugaku had crystallized, I argue, pursue alternate ways of understanding ethnicity, ethnography, and localized space that were silenced afterward. Likewise, Chapter Two asks: if these early experimental works by Kizen, among others, were no longer possible in post-Meiji literary and folkloristic discourses, what became possible in their stead? To answer this question, I turn to Izumi Kyōka’s late novel Sankai hyōban ki and argue that, by consciously scrambling the temporalities and prerogatives of both kindai bungaku and minzokugaku, the text puts forth a compelling vision of rural modernity as what I call “occult modernity.” Chapter Three turns its attention to what I propose to be the locus classicus of rural horror in modern Japan: the 1938 Tsuyama Incident. This chapter focuses on one text inspired by this incident, Yokomizo Seishi’s Yatsuhaka-mura, and analyzes how the excess of meaning produced by the Tsuyama Incident provides a productive backdrop against which an author like Yokomizo could approach the issue of rural horror. And Chapter Four looks at the contemporary genre of the “3.11 ghost story,” exploring how these narratives of spectral visions, spirit possession, and other supernatural phenomena work to “re-canny” the uncanny disaster zone by summoning the past into the present.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029604
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