UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dreams from below : Yumeno Kyūsaku and subculture literature in Japan Clerici, Nathen


Since the middle of the 2000s and the rise of Cool Japan, manga, anime, video games, Japanese horror films and J-Pop music are more popular than ever throughout the world. Both in Japan and abroad, these popular culture products are often synonymous with subculture. Sabukaruchā, as it is known in Japan, is a hot topic even as the concept itself remains unresolved. In this context, what role does literature—a field no longer atop the cultural hierarchy—have to do with the ongoing negotiation of what subculture means in modern Japan? The elements of what we now consider subcultural media and narratives have roots in the literature of past decades, and in this dissertation I explore the possibility of a new analytical framework: “subculture literature.” By thinking of subculture as a reception category—not unlike cult film—rather than in terms of concrete genres such as manga or anime, I adopt the concept of “subcultural affects” to examine notions of marginality and how society defines itself (and responds to external definitions). Similar to what might be considered narrative elements in a literary context, subcultural affects are the aspects of a text that are drawn out by readers to form affective constellations predicated on minorness. As a case study, I turn to the texts and reception of Yumeno Kyūsaku (1889-1936), a writer of mystery fiction who, despite achieving modest popular success in the late 1920s and early 1930s, was largely forgotten until his writing was revived in the context of 1960s sub- and counter-culture. For a politically-engaged youth, Kyūsaku offered an alternative model of being in the world: romantic and darkly comic, and engaged with questions of authority and madness. But how was his work received when it was written? Using the subcultural affects of henkaku, nansensu and dochaku, I consider the long-term reception of Kyūsaku’s work as a way to begin to bridge not only the gaps between historical eras, but between center and margin, major and minor, and popular and elite.

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