The Rhetoric of Photography in Modern Japanese Literature

Materiality in the Visual Register as Narrated by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Abe Kōbō, Horie Toshiyuki and Kanai Mieko

Author: Atsuko Sakaki
In The Rhetoric of Photography in Modern Japanese Literature, Atsuko Sakaki closely examines photography-inspired texts by four Japanese novelists: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886-1965), Abe Kōbō (1924-93), Horie Toshiyuki (b. 1964) and Kanai Mieko (b. 1947). As connoisseurs, practitioners or critics of this visual medium, these authors look beyond photographs’ status as images that document and verify empirical incidents and existences, articulating instead the physical process of photographic production and photographs’ material presence in human lives. This book offers insight into the engagement with photography in Japanese literary texts as a means of bringing forgotten subject-object dynamics to light. It calls for a fundamental reconfiguration of the parameters of modern print culture and its presumption of the transparency of agents of representation.

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Atsuko Sakaki (Ph.D., UBC, 1992), Professor of East Asian Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, authored Recontextualizing Texts: Narrative Performance in Modern Japanese Fiction (Harvard, 1999) and Obsessions with the Sino-Japanese Polarity in Japanese Literature (Hawai‘i, 2006).
"the book is uniquely valuable for its thorough and sophisticated treatment of photography in the works of the four writers it takes up. Sakaki’s extended, often insightful discussion of the novels Kishi no machi and Karui memai (Dizzy Spells) should be required reading for anyone with an interest in Kanai Mieko. Many analyses throughout the book will moreover provide a model for thinking about photographs and their functions in other contexts and cultures. No less valuable is Sakaki’s careful cataloguing of the allusions and other echoes among the works of the various overlapping coteries of writers, photographers, and critics, many of them French, that come into her account; she reveals an international network of surprising size and complexity. (...) Last, the book should be applauded for its generous quantity of photographic reproductions—thirty-six in all, including some in color. Thanks to these strengths, readers of Sakaki’s book will be rewarded with a deeper understanding not only of the four authors it studies, but also of the processes involved in producing and consuming photographs and the varied ways that photographs can work with or against an accompanying narrative."
Mark Silver, Monumenta NIpponica 72:1 (2017)

'a masterpiece of insight into the practice of photography and its performance on the pages of literary texts.(...) Atsuko Sakaki’s book is a dense text(ure) of interwoven discourses—based upon the theory and practice of photography, as well as the critical and fictional literatures that use photography as their core material. The complexity already resides in the basic choices of literary works selected for analysis. This then blooms and flourishes as the book develops a complex, hybrid methodology of weaving and intertwining the two discourses into a smooth and elaborated narrative texture. Sakaki’s greatest success, therefore, comes from her ability to crossdisciplinary boundaries, and to offer an exquisite piece of textual embroidery that constructs a profound and insightful literary visual-text.' Ayelet Zohar, Japanese Language and Literature (2015)
This book is intended for an academic audience interested in the study of modern Japanese literature, image-text, media studies, print culture and narrative theory.