The kimono has often been overlooked in the study of modern Japanese literature. Yet, this eloquent item of material culture deserves investigation for the multi-faceted ways it can represent character, symbolize critical aspects of narrative, and illuminate literary, historical and social contexts. This talk will focus on Kimono (1965-68), an unfinished novel by Kōda Aya (1904-90) that depicts a girl’s growing-up process through her experiences with kimono during the early decades of the twentieth century. While illustrating the protagonist's development and transformation through prewar dress culture, kimono in this work also serves a variety of other functions. By considering different ways of interpreting the reading and writing of kimono in this text, this lecture will offer a new analysis of the work, particularly in light of 1950-60s kimono culture and the novel’s posthumous publication and revitalization during 1990-2000s.
Michiko Suzuki is an associate professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. Her works include Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture (2010) and articles on gender and sexuality, and the relationship between literary texts and broader cultural discourses. She is the recipient of the 2013 Florence Howe Award for foreign languages and literatures (for feminist scholarship) and is currently working on two projects: early twentieth-century sexology discourse in Japan and literary representations of kimono.
Sponsored by the UW Japan Studies Program and made possible by the Seattle Art Museum Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas.
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