Injurious to Public Morals: Writers and the Meiji State

Injurious to Public Morals: Writers and the Meiji State

Injurious to Public Morals: Writers and the Meiji State

Injurious to Public Morals: Writers and the Meiji State

Excerpt

This book devotes several chapters to the approach of the Pacific War. It also refers to events as early as 1673. Why, then, writers and the Meiji state, which lasted only from 1868 to 1912? There are three reasons:

(1) On the one hand, the book is primarily concerned with literary developments falling between the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 and the end of Meiji, a revolutionary period in Japanese literature, when naturalism established the novelist as a detached observer of society, an observer whose insights were often abhorred as “injurious to public morals” and threatening to the sanctity of traditional values.

(2) On the other hand, the state structure established in the Meiji period survived past the end of the Pacific War. The Meiji state perfected the censorship apparatus in the 1880s, and the Meiji state evolved the pervasive thought-control system of the 1930s which led to the disastrous clash of Japanese spirit and Western technology in the 1940s.

(3) And finally, those chapters that do survey the Pacific War years tend to concentrate on writers whose careers began in Meiji and who cannot be taken as truly representative of the majority of writers active at the time. I am interested in the Meiji writers’ distinctively modern attitude of critical detachment and in the friction between them and government policies intended to encourage the kind of ideological conformity that supported the prosecution of a suicidal war.

The single most important official policy vis-á-vis writers was the establishment and maintenance of censorship, and much of this book is devoted to describing the structure and function of that system, which has been all but ignored in scholarly studies both here and Japan. But censorship was not the only weapon employed against writers, and it is not the exclusive focus of this book. As part of its ongoing war against independent thought, the government tried to organize writers into one sort of academy or another that would encourage the production of “wholesome” literature. And, as were all subjects . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.