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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women's magazines and the democratization of print and reading culture in interwar Japan Maeshima, Shiho


This dissertation reconsiders the significance of a periodical genre hitherto marginalized in academia, namely, the Japanese mass-market women’s magazine, in the history of print/reading culture in modern Japan. The study also aims to investigate the interrelations among magazine genres, gender categories, and the formation of cultural hierarchy. Analysis of diverse periodicals from the late 19th century to the 1930s, their contemporary commentaries and various surveys reveals that, around the turn of the 20th century, magazine genres became increasingly gendered in terms of their formats, editing styles, content, and readership: magazines for adults evolved into either “serious” general magazines for men concerning “public” matters or “vulgar” women’s magazines on “light” issues related to the “domestic” sphere. It was the latter magazine genre that led to the democratization of print/reading culture in interwar Japan. Inclusion of various article genres written in highly colloquial styles, extensive use of visuals, stress on entertainment and people’s private lives, and increasing collaboration with other industries, were to become common practices among Japanese periodicals after WWII. The new editing style also contributed to the spread of a new reading style in Japan. With its accessible editorial and promotional styles, the interwar mass-market women’s magazine attracted readers from a wide range of ages and social classes, including men, and functioned as the “transfeminized” entertaining home magazine. Moreover, other periodicals, including the more “serious” types, also began adopting some of the strategies developed in the popular women’s magazine, a periodical genre that had formerly been regarded as “deviant.” Arguably, the subversive impact the mass-market women’s magazine had on the publishing world triggered severe criticism. Thanks to its highly developed readers’ involvement and “transparent” mode of expression, the interwar popular women’s magazine presented a seemingly democratic and egalitarian magazine community. Closer examination of its articles, however, reveals unequal relationships between its readers and editors as well as among the readers, which offers valuable insight regarding its relation with discursive formation of diverse modern discourses and global trends in publishing.

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