ALC 330

Writing the Margins in Contemporary Japanese Literature

The examination of the self and its representation that has dominated Japanese literature since the Meiji period (1868-1912) took on a new urgency and tone in Japan's post-war period, with many authors exploring identities that challenged the established order. For some, that challenge was expressed through transgression and violence; for others, it was embodied in characters who lived outside of the boundaries of social acceptance. During a post-war period of general economic prosperity in which the Japanese government has famously taken pride in being a "homogenous" society, the country's contemporary literature is consistently and remarkably populated by characters who live on the margins of that homogenous identity. This course will explore the dominant themes of the most important modern and post-modern authors of Japan, including Ôe Kenzaburo, Murakami Haruki, Murakami Ryû, and Yoshimoto Banana, with particular emphasis on these marginalized characters and what they say about the "center" and the self. The goals of this course are 1) to become familiar with the most critically acclaimed literary voices of the post-war period; 2) to identify dominant themes in the literature of the period and examine what they say about what it means to be human; 3) to develop skills in critical reading, thinking and writing.