People out of place : emotional geography, postmodern identity and gender in three contemporary Japanese texts.
This dissertation examines contemporary Japanese notions of place, gender and identity as discussed in three texts by Japanese and Japanese-descended authors. The texts under examination include Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s film Tokyo Sonata (2008), Haruki Murakami’s novel After Dark (2007) and Japanese-American author Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale for the Time Being (2013). Within each text, I will discuss how the author or filmmaker’s conception of location affects, and is affected by, their characters’ shifting experience of identity and gender. I begin with a brief exploration of the history of Japan’s exposure to the West, and the Orientalist notions which have been perpetuated about Japan which contribute to the image of Japan as other. Thereafter I examine theories of emotional geography, which is the exploration of the emotional connections between self, setting and society at large. I then tie this theoretical perspective with conceptions of the fluidity of gender and postmodern identity’s imaginings of the fractured self. Each text progressively widens the spatial areas of interest – from Kurosawa’s concern for the home, Murakami’s focus on the city, and Ozeki’s discussion of trans-oceanic and imaginative spaces – while emphasising the dynamic interplay of place, person and performativity within each of these spaces. Each of these arenas of thought are linked through their interest in the destruction of the rigid boundaries governing human experience, and I will argue that each of the texts under analysis presents a profound observation of not only what it means to be Japanese today, but also offers a touching and hopeful case for shared humanity on a global scale.