Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Faye Y. Kleeman

Second Advisor

Janice C. Brown

Third Advisor

Jae Won Chung

Abstract

While Nakajima Atsushi (1909-1942) is well-known in the modern Japanese literary canon for his tales set in ancient China, this project examines six of his early works, written from 1927 to 1932, which have been disregarded in serious literary scholarship. The six short stories take place in Japan, colonial Seoul, Japanese-occupied southern Manchuria, and a frigid city in pre-colonized northern Manchuria, and include some of Nakajima’s most dynamic and diverse works. The project examines the ways in which these texts respond to hegemonic colonial narratives about space and landscape, about gendered and ethnicized hierarchy prescribed by the Empire, and about illness, hygiene, and bodily experience. The introduction situates the project in the understanding that meaning is dynamically negotiated at every instance of reading a text, that all texts are predicated on dialogue with various contexts, and that texts are hybrid spaces wherein the resistance toward and reification of one single narrative have the potential to exist as one multifaceted position. Given this knowledge, each chapter explores the short stories’ complex positions toward the hegemonic narratives in question. Chapter One traces a literary history of spatial representation in modern Japanese literature, which uncovers the privileging of the Japanese settler viewing subject. The chapter reveals the texts’ occasional challenges toward – but usually reinscription of – colonial space narratives. Chapter Two explores the texts’ hierarchical configuration of the multiethnic Empire vis-à-vis male settler desire, showing that although Nakajima’s Japanese male protagonists take a passive role in most situations, they are still privileged figures within this hierarchy, being afforded the most subjectivity. Chapter Three discusses the texts’ many instances of ill or bodily non-hegemonic characters and how their characterizations challenge the Japanese notion of fukoku-kyōhei (“rich nation, strong army”), which idealized strong and healthy male bodies to settle the colonies, and how they also assert notions of Japanese male settler privilege. This analytical project, followed by original translations of the six stories, aims to present the dynamicity of understudied stories within the realm of Japanese colonial literature.

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