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The Writing of Disaster Literary Representations of War, Trauma and Earthquakes in Modern Japan

Series:

Leith Morton

This book analyzes the literature that emerged from World War II. It also examines the literature that resulted from the two major earthquakes that have struck Japan over the course of over the last hundred years. The small number of volumes previously published examining the literature of war and earthquakes in Japan have almost always focused exclusively on fiction while this volume focuses mainly on poetry. This volume breaks new ground in its attempt to draw together and analyze the literature produced by these tragedies as a single phenomenon. It provides a new template for the literature of trauma produced by such events as the earthquake that accompanied the tsunami and nuclear meltdown in northeast Japan in 2011.

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Introduction

Introduction

Extract

“Between the vast insanities

That men so cleverly invent

It may be here, it may be here,

A simulacrum of content”

(from) “The Bungaloes” by William Plomer1

In the past few years a number of book-length English-language studies of the cultural dimensions of disasters in modern Japan have appeared in print.2 The question arises: Why do we need another? The reason is that none of these books concentrates solely on literature, as this book does, and only a few of the volumes treat the disaster spawned by World War II—the most destructive military conflict in Japanese history. This volume has a deliberate focus on both the literature that emerged from World War II, with four chapters on this topic, and also the literature that resulted from the two major earthquakes that have struck Japan over the course of over the last hundred years—incorporating the writing inspired by one of the major floods of the prewar period— with another four chapters investigating these subjects. One additional chapter examines the fiction of a well-known contemporary Okinawan author.3 Also, in this volume, World War II encompasses the Japanese military excursions onto the Asian continent, and thus includes the so-called “Fifteen Years’ War” (1931–1945) in its purview. The small number of volumes previously published examining the literature of war and earthquakes in Japan have almost always focused exclusively on fiction, but this volume has an equal focus on both poetry and...

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