The New Direction in the National Literature: In the case of Japanese Contemporary Literature
In the era of globalization, transnational writers continue to revitalize contemporary literature throughout the world. These include V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Tahar Ben Jelloun, among others.
In this emerging trend of multicultural literature, Japan is no longer an exception that is able to retain a national literary homogeneity. In Japan today, transnational authors such as Minako Oba, Fumiko Kometani, Minae Mizumura, Yoko Tawada, Kyoko Mori, and Hideo Levy, are redefining the conventional notion of Japanese literature. Japanese literature has been considered historically and traditionally as "literature produced solely in Japan, by Japanese writers, in Japanese." Transnational writers' new linguistic and thematic literary devices are guiding Japanese contemporary literature to the new directions.
In my presentation, two transnational works will be examined: Minae Mizumura's "Shishosetsu: From Left to Right," and Fumiko Kometani's "Passover." In comparing these autobiographical works, I will investigate the function of their linguistic choices, literary techniques and forms to demonstrate the emotional ambiguity between Japanese and American cultures.
Both works interweave the theme of searching for one's position, "home", between two countries, with other themes such as familial and cultural conflicts. Their linguistic choices, however, make their works unique. Mizumura, who now lives in Japan after a twenty-year residence in the U.S., chooses a linguistic blend of Japanese and English to portray her life in the U.S., while Kometani, who has been living in the U.S. for over three decades, writes in Japanese about her international marriage life, mixing Osaka dialect and standard Japanese. Both authors use languages as determinant of a literary form to develop their stories toward self-discovery.
Keiko Nakano (United States)
Instructor in Japanese
Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Cultures
John Carroll University
Instructor in Japanese at John Carroll University; B.A., Tsuda College, Tokyo; M.A. in English, John Carroll University; Ph.D (ABD) in Comparative Literature, Pennsylvania State University; Instructor, 1992 - present
Person as Subject
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)