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Title: The touchable and the untouchable : an investigation of touch in modern Japanese literature
Author: Innami, Fusako
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines how the experience of touch is depicted in modern/contemporary Japanese literature and culture. Employing touch-related 20th century French thought (Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Nancy) and psychoanalytic theory (Klein, Anzieu, Kimura), it discusses how the representations of touch illuminate various aspects of human existence, specifically: the mediated nature of touch, the process of the bodily encounters, the formation of subject identity, sexual differences, and the way memories of touch depicted in literature affect our sense of temporality. Touch is a particularly interesting way of approaching Japanese literature because touching between people (apart from mother and child, called skinship) has been considerably repressed at least until after WW2, due to the relative absence of public practices of touch, authors’ aesthetic choices and censorship. Opposing this tendency, female authors born postwar write freely about touch. In comparison to Judeo-Christian cultures, Japanese culture has historically not been open to tactile communication, nor is explicit articulation of internal experience, as in psychoanalysis, particularly prominent. Japanese literary characters are thus especially self-conscious about touch. Following a theoretical and historical overview regarding touch and contact in the Introduction, Chapter 1 discusses different ways of mediating touch in the works of Yoshiyuki Junnosuke, Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, and Abe Kōbō. Chapter 2 argues how high levels of mediation affect the manners of engaging in direct encounters with others in Yoshiyuki, Kawabata Yasunari, and Matsuura Rieko. Chapter 3 discusses the temporality of tactile memories in Yoshiyuki, Kawabata, and Ogawa Yoko. Reflecting on such a complicated portrayal of touch in Japanese culture will help fill a gap in the existing scholarship regarding touch in literature. By critically examining the relationship between theories and literature in the East and West, this thesis also significantly contributes to the field of comparative literature and cultural studies as an example of cross-cultural research on touch.
Supervisor: Flores, Linda; ffrench, Patrick Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literatures of other languages ; Japanese ; Japanese Studies ; Comparative Literature ; Cultural Studies ; Critical Theories ; Touch ; Senses ; Mediation ; Skinship ; Membrane ; Incorporation