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Palgrave Macmillan

Decadent Literature in Twentieth-Century Japan

ISBN 9781137382573
Publication Date December 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Decadence is a concept that designates a given historical moment as a phase of decay and valorizes the past as an irretrievable golden age. The literary theme and motif has survived through the history of literary and cultural discourses in Japan since antiquity to the present and holds a key to understand the wide range of social consciousnesses that cannot be always molded by a given social mainstream. Here, Ikuho Amano offers an innovative examination of a century of Japanese fiction through the analytical prism of decadence. Drawing on the economic issues prevalent in twentieth-century fictions, the book argues that non-productive labor plays an integral part of modern society and culture while accommodating the entropic excess of modern society. Through deviant dealings of resources, including waste, squandering, wagering, and excessive generosity, the decadent individuals negotiate with modern utilitarian ideologies of society based on labor and production, showcasing their desire and dream outside the circle of diligence and productivity.

Ikuho Amano is Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA, where she has taught Japanese literature and culture, Japanese film, and the language since 2007. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Introduction: The Making of Decadence in Japan
1. Immature Decadents: The Waste of Useless Men in Indulgences - Two Novellas by Oguri Fūyō and Iwano Hōmei
2. The Decadent Consumption of the Self: Naturalist Aestheticismin Morita Sōhei's Sooty Smoke
3. Decadent Returnees: The Dialogic Labor of Sensibility in Nagai Kafū's Sneers and Ueda Bin's The Vortex
4. Taishō Malaise as Decadence: Self-Reclusion and Creative Labor in Satō Haruo's A Pastoral Spreen and Tanizaki Jun'ichirō's A Fool's Love
5. Decadence Begins with Physical Labor: The Postwar Usethe Body in Sakaguchi Ango's The Idiot and Tamura Taijirō's Gateway to the Flesh
6. Decadence as Generosity: Squander and Oblivion in Mishima Yukio's Spring Snow
7. Capitalist Generosity: Decadence as Giving and Receiving in Shimada Masahiko's Decadent Sisters
Conclusion: Toward Japanese Decadence: The Dynamics of Energy from Waste to Living Labor


"Skillfully blending literary, philosophical, historical, and economic issues, Ikuho Amano's exploration of Japanese decadence is groundbreaking and compelling. This brilliant analysis of non-productive, subversive labor as resistance to mainstream social and aesthetic values highlights new fascinating connections between European and Japanese modernity...a crucial reading for anyone interested in East-West literary and cultural relations." - Nicoletta Pireddu, Associate Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, Georgetown University, USA
"This book is an exceptionally fine study of how decadence as a theme can be understood as a counter trope to the major aesthetic currents (including collectivity and conformity) that dominate twentieth century Japanese fiction. Ikuho Amano's brilliant, close readings - buttressed by a wealth of references to Japanese literary-critical discourse and contemporary Western literature and theory - and rediscovery of some important but neglected works of fiction portrays modern Japanese fiction in an entirely new light." - Leith Morton, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, and author of The Alien Within: Representations of the Exotic in Twentieth Century Japanese Literature
'Ikuho Amano's study of Decadence is a contemporary genealogy of 'useless men' in a modern efficiency-driven economy. It will be of interest to all scholars of modern Japanese culture, transculturation, and intercultural studies.' - Regenia Gagnier, Professor of English, University of Exeter, UK and author of Individualism, Decadence and Globalization
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