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Good bad girls : male writers’ romanticization of prostitutes in the post war era Harada, Kazue

Abstract

This thesis explores four Japanese male writers' romantic representations of prostitutes during the post-war period, specifically the period of the U.S. occupation of Japan (1945-1952). Literary works examined here exemplify the writers' adherence to idealized versions of femininity in the form of female prostitutes. The works were selected both for their notoriety as popular literature in the post-war period, and for their focus on female Japanese prostitutes and comfort women. The main body of this work consists of six chapters. The discussion begins with an overview of how prostitutes are seen as 'akujo' or 'bad girls' in post-war Japanese society. This section includes an overview of the 'tradition' of Japanese prostitution and of the systematic public stigmatization of prostitutes, including the perception of pan-pan prostitutes as akujo. Citing the scholarly works of Saeki Junko and Liza Dalby, the second chapter discusses male writers' interest in these prostitutes (as akujo), and the tradition of romanticizing these women in their novels in the modern era (1868 and onward). The bulk of analysis in this work draws from individual writers' portrayals of prostitutes. In particular, the analysis argues that post-war male writings share a similar theme: that of recovering one's humanity from Japan's wartime mentality. The writers emphasize physical and sexual desires as key aspects in their notion of humanism. For example, in Chapter Three, Sakaguchi Ango's works "Senso to hitori no onna" (The War and a Woman, 1946) and "Zoku, senso to hitori no onna" (The War and a Woman, the Sequel, 1946) are shown to share a similar plot that includes portrayals of ex-prostitutes as akujo. These portrayals are grounded in what Sakaguchi refers to as 'degradation theory' in his essay "Darakuron" (On Decadence, 1946), which argues that regaining one's post-war humanity requires sexually liberating acts— including creating connections to prostitutes. In Chapter Four, Tamura Taijiro's "Nikutai no mon" (Gate of the Flesh, 1947) and "Shunpu-den" (The Story of a Prostitute, 1947) provide further examples of the tendency to equate sex with humanism in their depictions of both pan-pan prostitutes and comfort women. These portrayals of women support Tamura's theory of'flesh.' Tamura suggests that sexual and physical awakening will revive Japan's post-war society by portraying pan-pans' and comfort women as saviours of regular Japanese soldiers. Both Sakaguchi and Tamura's theories are linked to the post-war ethos. In Chapter Five, I explore Ishikawa Jun's portrayals of prostitutes using the literary techniques yatsushi and mitate, both of which imagine transformation through masquerade, in "Ogon densetsu" (The Legend of Gold, 1946) and Kayoi Komachi (1947). Through their transformations, Ishikawa's female characters transcend both time and stereotypical female imagery. In Chapter Six, Yoshiyuki Junnosuke's Genshoku no machi (The Town of Primary Colours, 1951) and "Shofu no heya" (The Prostitute's Room, 1958; trans, as In Akiko's Room, 1977), contain portrayals of prostitutes' lives in the red-light districts, and explicitly depict female characters' sexual behaviour. Yoshiyuki characterizes prostitutes as outcasts from society and romanticizes the bonds between these women and male characters. To conclude, this paper suggests that the post-war male writers discussed romanticize prostitutes in their texts as part of a desire for social change and concern for humanity.

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