In this talk, Dr Damian Flanagan explored the shifting sexual norms of Japan’s literary history from the Edo Period to the present. Back in the 18th Century, same sex relationships were common in Japan, indeed seen as underpinning the power structures of samurai hierarchy, while anything thought to challenge social stability – like adultery with a married woman – was severely punished.
Move into the late 19th century and under Western influence same sex relationships became taboo and the concept of “romantic love” entered Japan. After the Second World War, with the loosening of censorship controls, long-suppressed desires began to be openly expressed. How have the great writers of Japan from Ihara Saikaku and Natsume Soseki to Yukio Mishima and Haruki Murakami responded to the challenge of these shifting sexual norms and how does understanding the sexuality of the age change our understanding of their works?
In this talk, the intriguing interaction between sexuality and literature over 400 years of Japanese history is revealed.
About the contributors
Dr Damian Flanagan
Dr Damian Flanagan is an award-winning author and translator who has published a number of books on Japanese literature. He wrote his first book, a controversial study of Japan’s greatest modern author Natsume Soseki, in Japanese. His second book (The Tower of London and other Stories, 2005) told the story of Soseki’s experiences in Britain and won the US-Japan Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. His third book, again in Japanese, was Natsume Soseki: Superstar of World Literature(2007). He has also written widely on Japanese politics, arts and society for publications including The Japan Times, the Asahi Shinbun, Newsweek and the Nihon Keizai Shinbun. Yukio Mishima is his latest book, published in October 2014. He lives in Manchester and Nishinomiya, Japan.