Tamura Toshiko’s Narratives of Resilience


Tamura Toshiko (1884-1945) is recognized as a leading feminist author of early twentieth-century Japan. She defied established gender norms and moral codes to express unconventional desires in her lifestyle and to inscribe her liberal ideas and rebellious spirit into her literature. However, many feminists, past and present, have observed that Toshiko's pioneering efforts at liberating herself and other women from oppressive conditions were somewhat undermined by the author's self-indulgent tendencies. Moreover, her fiction typically portrays female characters who fail to achieve genuine self-sufficiency because of their dependency on pleasure, comfort, and intimacy. The most distinctive personality trait of the author's fictional protagonists may be the ambivalence that they exhibit. This may take the form of inconstancy in aims or object choices, or rapid oscillation between exuberance and despair, self-confidence and abjection, attraction and indifference. I wish to propose a rather different lens through which to elucidate "ambivalence," with respect to character development and narrative structure, in Toshiko's works. For the protagonist, ambivalence is a coping mechanism whereby she counters and neutralizes various ordeals and affronts by affirming herself through pleasure. She instinctively dissipates threats to her integrity or self-respect by replacing them with positive images and experiences. This response is the essence and evidence of her resilience. In my presentation I will discuss three short stories by Tamura Toshiko in terms of my stated thesis. They are "Yuuutsu na nioi" (A Melancholy Fragrance, 1913), "Kuki no mi no yuuwaku" (The Lure of Crimson Berries, 1914), and "Hebi" (The Snake, 1916).

Author Information
Maryellen Mori, Independent Scholar, United States

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2022
Stream: Literature

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon