Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Sexual Politics of the Female Gaze in Kawabata Yasunari's Novel "Beauty and Sadness.": Disrupting the Predominance of the Imagined Male Gaze

Prof., Gloria R. Montebruno Saller.

In Beauty and Sadness Kawabata Yasunari’s images of femininity are created not only from the novelist’s desire to represent male fantasies, but also from the changes women were undergoing in Japanese society in the 1960s. Kawabata provided the largely female readership of Fujin Kôron, the magazine where this novel first appeared, with a text that conformed to the moral issues that were in vogue in 1960 Japan, and perpetuated the government ideology of the “good wife, wise mother.” In his quest to know and celebrate women, Kawabata endowed women with a gaze in Beauty and Sadness and allowed them to tell their side of the story. My approach to the text from the perspective of the female gaze reveals women’s strength when surviving betrayal, abandonment and child loss, and presents a male character forced into accepting his status as the one gazed upon. The structure of the female gaze in this novel reveals women’s rebellion toward such roles as mothers, wives, and daughters, and shows women’s desire to break free from social constraints. My study presents women in their quests to affirm themselves as their own persons. The female gaze in Beauty and Sadness is an aestheticized site for women as wives and lovers to reclaim their identity as subjects of their lives, not objects of representations. The female gaze in Beauty and Sadness is a site of resistance as women struggle to defy the male voice and the male gaze as exclusive makers of discourse.


Prof., Gloria R. Montebruno Saller  (United States)
Adjunct Faculty
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Southern California

Gloria R. Montebruno was educated in Italy, England, France, and the United States. She obtained her BA-equivalent in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Turin, Italy. After moving to the United States in 1994, she enrolled in the graduate program in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California where she received her Ph.D. in Summer 2003. She is a Lecturer of Japanese Literature and Civilization at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on issues of vision and visuality in modern Japanese literature, with insights drawn from gender studies and film theory. She is currently working on an article that investigates the dynamics of the disruptive female gaze in Kawabata Yasunari's novel "Beauty and Sadness."

  • Modern Japanese Literature
  • Literary Theory
  • Gender Studies
Person as Subject
  • Kawabata Yasunari, "Beauty and Sadness"

(Virtual Presentation, English)