Accepted paper:

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: the Role of Writing in a 'Second Revolution' of Meiji and the Revolutionary Origin of Kunikida Doppo's Writing Career


Yu Sakai (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

By focusing on the historical and intellectual role of the Minyūsha, this paper will show the revolutionary origin of Kunikida Doppo's writing. The Minyūsha's and Doppo's view of writing as a form of political engagement acutely challenges the commonly assumed separation of politics and literature.

Paper long abstract:

The promulgation of the Meiji Constitution in 1889, two decades after the Meiji Ishin, symbolically represented the end of the politically tumultuous period and signalled the beginning of a time for settlement. The Freedom and People's Rights Movement that had so contested the Meiji government disappeared altogether as the Constitution realised the movement's main goal of opening the Diet. However, as the social order became solidified and the possibilities for further changes quickly diminishing, Japanese youth found themselves politically powerless, and many retreated to interiority and literature, thus, the narrative goes, the emergence of modern Japanese literature. This contextualisation of Japan's modern literature during this period has forced the separation of politics and literature. In short, literature has been dismissed as a turn away from the political reality. Hence, from historians' point of view, literary writers in general have had little relevance in modern Japanese history. This paper makes an argument for the historical and intellectual significance of Meiji writer Kunikida Doppo which inevitably accompanies an alteration of the conventional narrative that has ordered the existing historical knowledge of modern Japanese literature. In order to illustrate that young Doppo's commitment to writing had much historical relevance, this chapter will re-examine the historical context by focusing on the role of the Minyūsha - the publisher and the creator of Kokumin no tomo, the most influential magazine at the time - in calling for a 'second revolution' to realise the revolutionary ideals of the Ishin. It will be demonstrated that the political vibrancy and turmoil of pre-1890 did not simply cease to exist but changed the form from a direct political action to journalism and literature. The fact that the Minyūsha regarded writing as a form of political engagement which focussed on individual readers and their state of mind critically challenges the commonly assumed separation of politics and literature. This paper culminates in Doppo's search of a model for his writing which ultimately arrived on the Russian literature through Futabatei Shimei's works. This too was a statement of his intent to effect the transformation of society through writing.

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Representations of Violence