Becoming modern women : love and female identity in prewar Japanese literature and culture

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Third, love marriage is based on the idea that both the husband and the wife are individuals with agency and hence are equals. Fourth, this kind of relationship mirrors national advancement and allows individual progress: The union of a man and woman who are both free individuals, as well as a life that enables the completion of the self [jiko] through this union and that creates new spirit—these things can be attained only through mutual love. Love is important because it enables self-completion and the attainment of male-female equality.

This was the Byakuren incident, a love scandal involving poet Yanagihara Akiko — , also known by her writing name Yanagihara Byakuren. Given that female infidelity was punishable by law at the time, this was a bold use of the media by the lovers to gain support for their actions. The October 22 full-page spread explains that Byakuren disappeared two days earlier while traveling in Tokyo with her husband.

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For the next several weeks, newspapers covered the Byakuren incident extensively, not only reporting on the latest developments but also publishing numerous editorials and letters from readers that discussed the scandal. This was a unique love incident, not only for its strategic use of love marriage discourse, but also for its inspirational message of idealism. Byakuren and Miyazaki remained happily married until her death in By the early s, love marriage became established as an important ideal, but this did not mean that it suddenly became a common practice.

At the same time, many of the letter writers located the original problem in the arranged marriage, viewing the institution as having created the undesirable situation in the first place. Love Marriage Ideology, Women Writers, and Miyamoto Yuriko Love marriage appears in a number of prewar works by women writers, especially in I-novels in which the author relates her own experiences.

These authors wrote about their relationships in a variety of ways. Critics often read these narratives only for biographical interest, but in many texts the exploration of female identity and love marriage whether fictional or not is actually part of a larger cultural conversation. Although she did not specifically focus on love marriage per se, Uno Chiyo — immediately comes to mind as an author who wrote about male-female love; she is famous for having had different liaisons, marrying for love several times, and emphasizing the importance of such passionate relationships in her life.

Such stories frequently underscore the particular difficulties for a woman writer whose identity is tied to the act of writing; marriage hinders her progress, because she often has additional responsibilities to carry out, such as domestic duties and child care. In the former tale, the protagonist, who marries for love, ends up relinquishing her writing career for her husband and child; Crimson features an intellectual proletarian couple who constantly battle each other over time and resources to write.

As I suggest in the next chapter, views about female completion and advancement shifted in the mid- to late s with the influx of new discourses about love and the rise of socialist ideology. Often a conflict between love and politics is expressed: Was love marriage compatible with socialism and Marxism or was it simply part of bourgeois values? At the same time, we also find women who desire to be fulfilled through both the marital relationship and activist politics.

For the protagonist, who becomes disenchanted by her husband, love and politics are fused as one ideal. Machiko, the eponymous protagonist, is depicted as an idealist who believes in both love and class struggle; she rejects arranged marriages as well as the bourgeois lifestyle. She is ready to run off and marry a radical activist, but she discovers that he has made her friend pregnant. Horrified by his lack of personal responsibility, Machiko realizes that she was not really in love with him but only enamored of the idea of social change. Nogami, who chose of her own volition a husband supportive of her writing career, published stories and translations in Bluestocking.

We can see how Machiko reflects certain elements of love marriage ideology; the modern woman is to be fulfilled through a love-based union, one that will allow the couple to progress as equal partners and contribute to social improvement. The husband-wife relationship in its most ideal form was the love marriage, a practice that was supposed to elevate and advance the couple and aid in the transformation of both individual and society. Of the many women writers of this period, Miyamoto Yuriko was recognized as a practitioner of love marriage.

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She became famous in when, at age seventeen, she published her first story in a major pure literature magazine. By , when the Byakuren incident occurred, she was well known in Japan as a successful woman writer who herself had married for love. But it is clear. Yet it is also crucial to consider her writing in context. In the entries from to , for example, she analyzes her failing marriage by referring to love marriage discourse and related contemporary issues.

Her desire to progress and complete the self is combined with discussions on spiritual and sexual love, equality, and the question of true love and true marriage. Furthermore, this is a work that fully engages with love marriage ideology and shows various shifts in intellectual thought during the s. She would go on to become one of the most recognized names in literature until her death in Miyamoto lived in Moscow from to , and in she joined the then illegal Japan Communist Party.

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Unlike many of her contemporaries, she remained committed to her politics despite imprisonment and persecution. Her second husband, Miyamoto Kenji — , who shared her politics, remained a prominent party leader until the s; both Miyamoto Yuriko and Kenji are still venerated by the Japanese Left as visionaries who remained true to their convictions during the Fifteen-Year War and refused to recant despite mistreatment by the authorities.

After they returned to Japan, however, the marriage unraveled and ended in divorce in It is often assumed that Nobuko was an immediate success when it was first published during the s. Yet surprisingly the novel did not make a great impact on the literary scene when it first appeared.

During the s and s it influenced neither the proletarian literature movement nor the pure literature genre. It was during the immediate postwar years, from the mid- to late s, that the novel enjoyed a significant revival and was reissued by a number of publishers.

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Cover of Becoming Modern Women by Michiko Suzuki. Becoming Modern Women. Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture. inandegeschest.tk: Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture (): Michiko Suzuki: Books.

Does this not say that Nobuko examines social issues yet to be completely resolved in the lives of young Japanese women today? While acknowledging the significance of Nobuko as an I-novel, a number of critics have interpreted the work in new ways, moving away from purely autobiographical approaches that consider Nobuko only as an authentic reproduction of Miyamoto herself.

Yet there has been almost no questioning of the postwar reinvention of Nobuko; in other words, despite the fact that Miyamoto is clearly engaged with then contemporary concerns in her diaries as well as in her fiction, the novel has not been fully examined in its original prewar discursive context. It is , the year that will see hostilities cease between countries engaged in World War I.

After returning to Japan, Nobuko soon comes to realize that the love marriage was a mistake. Nobuko finds him inadequate as a partner and becomes stifled as a writer; her domestic duties as a wife and her unhappiness in the relationship make it impossible for her to focus productively on her own literary work. In she meets Yoshimi Motoko, a single woman who is a magazine editor and a student of Russian literature.

The novel closes a few months later, with Nobuko and Tsukuda agreeing to separate. Once she frees herself from the idealized image of heterosexual love and marriage and questions the position of a wife, she is able to realize her true identity. Yet such a reading from our contemporary perspective is misleading without fully understanding what love and marriage and love marriage meant for an upper-class, educated woman like Nobuko during the s and s. Here I reread the novel through its conversation with prewar love marriage discourse. The standard, widely read version of Nobuko is awkwardly constructed and at times extremely disjointed.

This is because it is an edited, shortened version of the original — serialization. Although many critics do not discuss the earlier text, I believe it is important to look at both the — and the versions for a full understanding of Nobuko and its relation to contemporary notions of love and marriage. The general plot itself is the same in both versions, but the difference in details—particularly what is erased from the earlier text—is quite revealing.

In contrast, however, the changes in Nobuko from one version to the other have largely been ignored. In this chapter I discuss both versions of Nobuko. The quotes specific to the — version are cited in endnotes; when the textual differences are limited or unremarkable, or when I specifically discuss the later version, I use quotes from the work, noting them parenthetically in the text.

Nobuko becomes close to Tsukuda, and their romance begins abruptly during her illness with influenza. Tsukuda kisses the delirious Nobuko as she lies in a hospital bed; she responds by kissing back and embracing him even as she falls unconscious. Already from the start their courtship is problematic, because it is based not on mutuality or even self-awareness but on a one-way expression of male desire that is answered by a barely conscious sick girl. When we revisit the original — text, however, it becomes clear that Nobuko consistently interprets the relationship through the filter of love marriage discourse.

I understand everything—a thirty-five-year-old man kissing the lips of a twenty-year-old girl whom he formally addresses with her last name? He does this with only fatherly sentiment? What an absurd idea! Love is seen as combining the spiritual element of self-transformation and betterment with a sexually charged attraction. Love also enables her to claim a unique individual identity separate from her family and friends.

In the — text there is a telling sequence that is entirely edited out of the later book version. If that was the case, it could have been any man who had appeared in front of me under the same conditions! I loved him because I loved him! The narrative suggests that Nobuko may have been in love with the ideal of love marriage but not necessarily with her partner; misreading the situation, she projected love marriage ideology onto a problematic relationship.

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Reading this edition, then, enables us to understand fully why she is so moved when Tsukuda responds to her marriage proposal with the same idealistic language about love and marriage. This famous scene shows Nobuko proposing to Tsukuda in a roundabout way as they walk along the Hudson River. She says that if she were to marry, she would not want to marry anyone but him. She then asks how he would feel about a wife who wanted to keep working even after marriage. I really love you.

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This is the truth. But I also love my work. Just as much as you! Someone who loves you would never do such a thing, to tell you to give it up! I think this far—even if this meant throwing myself away, I want to help in completing you [anata o kansei sasete agetai]. Do you really think this?