Gender in Japanese literature and literary studies

Authored by: Laura Clark , Lucy Fraser

The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138895201
eBook ISBN: 9781315179582
Adobe ISBN:


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A binary and gendered division of authors has dominated Japanese literary history, with the work of female writers held up against notions of “women’s literature” and the work of particular male writers left unmarked as the literary norm. This division is also perpetuated within notions of “pure literature” (dominated by male authors) versus mass or popular fiction (which has offered more opportunities to female authors), though the borders of these categories have been disintegrating for decades now. This chapter seeks to outline some of the changes taking place in both literature and literary studies, as definitions of gender issues shift to encompass a broader spectrum. It shows that in addition to important research of uncovering the value of work by under-recognised female authors, Japanese literary studies research is developing a cornucopia of topics and approaches that allow for gender to be folded into the discussion. Works of both “high” literature and “genre” fiction can explore and destabilise Japanese gender norms, and scholarly studies open the door to a more complex and nuanced understanding of “gender” in Japanese literature.

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