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The Modernist Self in Early-Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature: Shishōsetsu (the “I-novel”) and the Writings of Shiga Naoya

  • Author / Creator
    Wu, Dongyue
  • Shiga Naoya志賀直哉 (1883-1971) is widely recognized as a defining writer of shishōsetsu 私小説 (literally “I-novel,” the novel of the self), a literary genre prospering in Japan from the 1900s to the 1930s. A general assumption about shishōsetsu is that they are a faithful account of the author’s personal experiences, and that they serve as a medium for the author’s unreserved self-expression while paying little attention to the outside world. For some readers, Shiga’s shishōsetsu are disappointing owing to their limited social dimension. However, shishōsetsu in fact reflect and respond to social reality. This research aims to gain insights into the reasons for shishōsetsu’s emergence and wide acceptance, and how Shiga’s shishōsetsu embody important social aspects of modernizing Japan despite their supposed solipsism. Moreover, there has been a view that some of Shiga’s writings do not fit the category of shishōsetsu in that they deviate from factual reality. To examine the validity of this view, this research also looks at the perplexing definition of shishōsetsu. Chapter I resituates shishōsetsu in the historical context that gave birth to it. A basic sketch of the sociocultural and political conditions of early-twentieth-century Japan is provided to assess the formation and rise of shishōsetsu. In addition, Chapter I examines the definition of shishōsetsu, with a focus on the notion of “reality” (jitsu 実) as well as the relationship between the shishōsetsu reader and writer. With the goal of better illustrating how Shiga’s shishōsetsu are projections of the social reality of his day, Chapter II deals with one of the central themes of Shiga’s life and literature – the modern Japanese man’s struggle between modernity and tradition, using Shiga’s representative shishōsetsu Reconciliation (Wakai 和解, 1917) as a major example. This is followed by an extension of previous studies on Shiga’s treatment of modernity and Japanese culture and nature in his magnum opus A Dark Night’s Passing (An’ya kōro 暗夜行路, 1921-1937).

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-xrjm-rh67
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.