JPTR 3559/5559 Fall 2013 “The Many Faces of Love in Modern Japanese Fiction”

Monday, April 1, 2013

Instructor:  Michiko Wilson

Time:  3:30-6:00 Wednesdays

McLeod 2006


This course examines how modern male writers of Japanese prose fiction have approached the Western concepts of love and sexual equality, first introduced to Japan in the late Meiji (1868-1912).  The idea and articulation of romantic love remain particularly elusive to modern Japanese male writers and takes the form of longing from afar as opposed to any full realization and/or fulfillment of an emotional life, as is often portrayed in Western literature. In the imaginative world of fiction, female characters in the role of either madonnas or femme fatales come to symbolize the protagonists’ inner struggle with the integration of love and erotic desire, “the most profound expression of compatibility and harmony between two human beings.”  This seminar will cover masterpieces of modern Japanese prose fiction, the film adaptations of some of the novels, and articles that enlighten this sexual ambivalence also manifested in the relationships between honne (one’s private feelings) and tatemae (what society dictates) which point to a further understanding of the socio-cultural complexities of reality faced by Japanese writers.


No knowledge of Japanese is required. This course fulfills the Non-Western Requirement and the Second Writing Requirement.


Works include:

The Wild Geese by Ôgai Mori

“Mistress,” a film adaptation of The Wild Geese

Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

“Snow Country, a film adaptation

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

The Woman in the Dunes by Kôbô Abe

“The Woman in the Dunes,” a film adaptation

Dance, Dance, Dance, by Haruki Murakami


Excerpts from:

Love in the Western World by Denis De Rougemont

Lovesick Japan: Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law by Mark West

Understanding Amae by Takeo Doi (the author of The Anatomy of Dependence)

The End of the Novel of Love, by Vivian Gornick