Identity and commitment In 1960s Japan

Thomas Garcin (The University of Strasbourg)
Mayumi Shimosakai (University of Orléans)
Modern Literature
Torre A, Piso -1, Auditório 002
Start time:
31 August, 2017 at 14:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel aims at investigating and analyzing the complex relationships between committed literature and the quest for identity in 1960s Japan. Special attention will be paid to the interactions between the authors' literary identities and the community.

Long abstract:

In the 1950s, the context of the Cold War and the socio-political restructuration of Japan harbours ideological struggles which still seem to revolve around the ideal of a grand collective narrative. By contrast, in the 1960s, Mishima Yukio's suicide, as well as the violence of the most extremist of the student groups of the New Left movement was only remotely related to the general public's concern. These actions bear witness of a new type of commitment whose driving forces were probably more existential than political. Simultaneously, new ideological struggles emerged, focusing on specific issues, such as the place of minorities. It is not without significance that the personal and idiosyncratic dimension of commitment became more visible and was increasingly asserted during this period. Japan entered a new era, in which collective narratives were losing steam. From then on, commitment became a way to assert or reveal one's identity. Such a shift raises the question of the interactions between the individual and the community: how can a writer raise public interest towards a personal issue? How can individual differences and specificities find their rightful place within the society, the nation, or shared values? The authors this panel will present all came from various political and literary horizons, and possessed their own writing styles, but they nevertheless all challenged the relationship between the individual and the community. As Thomas Garcin will show, Mishima Yukio or Takahashi Kazumi's dreams of heroic deeds flirted with solipsism. Acknowledging the anachronistic and illusory dimension of their political stances, they yet both tried to universalize their ideals through a classic or neoclassic style. Conversely, in Mayumi Shimosakai's presentation, we will see that zainichi authors such as Kim Tal-su or Kim Seok-peom put their personal identity into their writings, creating an original type of literature. Makiko Andro-Ueda will demonstrate that Morisaki Kazue similarly forged a specific language in which she expressed her quest for a new identity, showing solidarity with people on the margins of Japanese society. Such approaches are antithetical, but they both illustrate a quest for identity, closely related to the Japanese context of their time.