Sophia Sherry (PhD Candidate, English)
“Ethnography of Loss: Fumiko Hayashi’s Postwar Women”
Discussant: David Krolikoski (PhD Candidate, EALC)
On January 18th from 3:00pm to 5:00pm the Art and Politics of East Asia workshop will host Sophia Sherry (PhD Candidate, English). She will present “Ethnography of Loss: Fumiko Hayashi’s Postwar Women,” a chapter of her dissertation. Sophia provides the following abstract:
On one standard account, Western literary “modernism” traces its origins to the metropolitan centers of Euro-America in the fin-de-siècle period. In this genealogy, Jules Laforgue’s symbolist experiments in verse inspire T.S. Eliot’s high-modernist formalism, for instance, and Baudelaire’s squalid Paris of the French Second Empire makes possible James Joyce’s reimagining of Dublin in his Ulysses of the 1920s. On this account, too, that signature, modernist modality of “stream of consciousness” is born in William James’s pragmatist philosophy and it finds its perfect exponents in James’s fellow anglophones Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. Within the modernist (sub)field of English literary scholarship, such geographically constrained myths of influence and derivation appear at once comfortable (familiar) and increasingly short-sighted.
This paper contributes to the growing field of global modernist study by joining the ranks of current scholars engaged in broadening the latitudes of modernist scholarship and inquiry. Transnational imperatives driving new conceptions of cultural modernism encompass, therefore, not just the ethical and political demands of postcolonial literary emancipation but also, I am wagering, merely alternative epistemes and methodologies which are differently inflected, at either the perpetrating or receiving end, by the violent histories of global imperialism. Modern Japan, which Shu-mei Shih has called a member of the “honorary West,” is one case of the latter in point. Meiji Japan is a late-born empire, an instance of an “alternative” and mostly simultaneous, if accelerated, modernity, and yet still, as part of the global East, it lurks as one piece of the West’s projected Other—a modern Orient of reformed despotism whose essential difference serves, in Said’s classic analysis, to consolidate a foreclosed narrative of Western exceptionalism.
Fumiko Hayashi’s “social-realist” modanizumu is the focus of this paper, especially as it manifests at global scale within the Japanese postwar context. Primary texts include Hôrôki (1930) and Ukigumo (1951). Behaviorist in her rendering of diverse human subjects, Hayashi’s “nomadic” modernism (as Seiji Lippit has called it) partakes of a phenomenological logic of revolutionary inversion (tentô), or more simply of a de-naturalizing of naturalized categories of understanding. Such naturalized intellectual and sensuous tendencies would seek to differentiate human subjects from material objects, say, or make history seamless and inevitable when in fact it is always contingent. In this scrambling of epistemological assumptions (tentô), I borrow from Kôjin Karatani’s 1990s deconstruction of the “origins” of Japanese literature. The paper also draws on Sho Konishi’s recent work on Japanese-Russian anarchist modernity and Ann Sherif’s scholarship on Japan in the global Cold War period.