Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture

Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture

Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture

Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture

Synopsis

Presenting a fresh examination of women writers and prewar ideology, this book breaks new ground in its investigation of love as a critical aspect of Japanese culture during the early to mid-twentieth century. As a literary and cultural history of love and female identity, Becoming Modern Women focuses on same-sex love, love marriage, and maternal love- new terms at that time; in doing so, it shows how the idea of "woman," within the context of a vibrant print culture, was constructed through the modern experience of love. Author Michiko Suzuki's work complements current scholarship on female identities such as "Modern Girl" and "New Woman," and interprets women's fiction in conjunction with nonfiction from a range of media- early feminist writing, sexology books, newspapers, bestselling love treatises, native ethnology, and historiography. While illuminating the ways in which women used and challenged ideas about love, Suzuki explores the historical and ideological shifts of the period, underscoring the broader connections between gender, modernity, and nationhood.

Excerpt

In a 1903 work titled The Evolution of the Japanese, American missionary Sidney Gulick (i860–1945) praises Japan as a model nation that is making dynamic progress. His sentiments reflect the early twentieth-century worldview in which evolutionary progress and development were key notions. From a Social Darwinist perspective, both individual and nation were to follow a trajectory of maturation, moving toward a better future and a higher state of existence. Gulick writes:

New Japan is in a state of rapid growth. She is in a critical period, resembling
a youth, just coming to manhood, when all the powers of growth are most
vigorous.… In the course of four or five short years the green boy develops
into a refined and noble man; the thoughtless girl ripens into the full matu
rity of womanhood and of motherhood. These are the years of special inter
est to those who would observe nature in her time of most critical activity.

Not otherwise is it in the life of nations. There are times when their
growth is phenomenally rapid; when their latent qualities are developed;
when their growth can be watched with special ease and delight, because so
rapid…. Such, I take it, is the condition of Japan to-day…. Her intellect,
hitherto largely dormant, is but now awaking. Her ambition is equaled only . . .

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