Gender Is Fair Game: (Re)thinking the (Fe)male in the Works of Oba Minako


This is a critical study of the major novels and short stories of Oba Minako (1930-), the undisputed leader in the resurgence of women writers in Japan. A winner of the coveted Akutagawa Prize, Oba has reclaimed a celebrated position for Japanese women writers, a legacy left by Lady Murasaki and her Heian (900-1100 A.D.) sisters.

By focusing on Oba's postmodernist rethinking of gender and culture, Wilson examines the theme of female Bildungsroman. She demonstrates how Oba draws on "marinated memories, " how she recovers the past (her experiences abroad) in depictions of refreshingly articulate, sober female protagonists who capitalize on overstepping their native socio-cultural boundaries, women who "use and abuse" the system and conventions that nurture and at the same time threaten their identity.

Another important point of emphasis in this study is Oba's playful and absurdist style which reinforces the appropriation of the Bildungsroman form. Oba's writing combines the artistry of a humorist/satirist, a poet, and a painter, with the subversive spirit of a shrewd cultural critic. The rhythmic dialogues and dramatic monologues that abound in her works are continually interrupted by the intrusion of an omnipresent authorial voice. Ideas and musings, sometimes lofty, sometimes verging on the absurd, merge and clash in comic, free-for-all repartee.

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