Hansen’s Disease and Modern Japanese Literature, 1919-1942

The Art and Politics in East Asia Workshop


Hansen’s Disease and Modern Japanese Literature, 1919-1942

Kathryn Tanaka

Ph.D. Student

Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

With a response offered by

Valerie Levan, Ph.D candidate, Comparative Literature

Friday, April 24
3:00-5:00 p.m.

Judd 313


In 1930s Japan, writings by patients with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) became popular enough that critics referred to it as a distinct genre, Hansen’s Disease literature. I explore the purposes this genre served for patients, doctors, and the received literary history. By exploring the connections this writing makes between medical and literary discourse, I examine the role of the body and experience in patient writing, and the relationship of the category of patient writing to dominant literary genres, with a particular emphasis on Hansen’s Disease literature and shishôsetsu, or autobiographical fiction. I argue that restoring this genre to Japanese literary history is crucial to demonstrating the social and political implications occluded from mainstream literary categories.

This paper is a very rough draft of my dissertation proposal. Please do not circulate.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list and receive workshop updates, please contact ktanaka@uchicago.edu

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please email Kathryn Tanaka at ktanaka@uchicago.edu or Tomoko Seto at tseto@uchicago.edu


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