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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The theme of innocence in Miyazawa Kenji's tales Hagiwara, Takao


Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933), an exceptionally prolific poet and children's story writer, was little appreciated by his contemporaries, but after his death his literary fame grew rapidly. This neglect can be traced to a lack of understanding of Kenji's cosmology which gave rise to his unique sense of innocence. He expressed this sense of innocence through both his literature and his life. This dissertation is an attempt to clarify the nature of Kenji's idea of innocence as exemplified, specifically, in his tales. Chapter 1 presents a biographical sketch of Kenji. It provides the necessary contextual information for analyzing his tales and explores the ways in which he expressed innocence in his life. Indeed, Kenji's life closely parallels his literature and can be seen as a "meta-text," as yet another tale whose central theme is innocence. Chapter 2 dicusses the relationship between Kenji's ideas of innocence and "the other world," or ikukan. in terms of certain dichotomies such as Iwate (nature) vs. Tokyo (culture), art (imagination) vs. life (reality), and life vs. death. These conceptual pairs will also be considered in relation to another opposition, the center-periphery or "unmarked-marked" opposition. Chapters 3 and 4 focus on how Kenji uses symbolism in his tales to express his ideas of innocence. Ideas from a wide variety of sources, including psychoanalytic theory, various schools of literary criticism, anthropology and religion, are used in analyzing Kenji's symbolism. These chapters will establish that Kenji's innocence is of cosmic scale and is often expressed through mandala-like images in which the center and the periphery interpenetrate. Chapter 5 examines stylistic features of Kenji's tales such as his use of Iwate dialect, songs, onomatopoeia, and scientific vocabulary, in their relationship to the Issues of innocence, ikukan and the center-periphery dichotomy. The conclusion attempts to provide a synthetic view of innocence in Kenji. This chapter argues that Ken j is ideas of innocence are best understood in relation to his cosmology which can be explained in terms of a special type of cyclicity and circularity. Indeed, the structure of Kenji"s universe may be compared to that of the Mobius strip in which ends are connected to beginnings through a simple half twist; this built-in twist generates the vital and energetic innocence seen in Kenji's literature as well as in his life.

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