Literature, Modernity, and the Practice of Resistance

Japanese and Taiwanese Fiction, 1960-1990


This book is a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary study which compares responses to modernity in the literary cultures of Japan and Taiwan, 1960-1990. Moving beyond the East-West framework that has traditionally dominated comparative enquiry, the volume sets out to explore contemporary East Asian literature on its own terms. As such, it belongs to the newly emerging area of inter-Asian cultural studies, but is the first full-length monograph to explore this field through the prism of literature. The book combines close readings of paradigmatic texts with in-depth analysis of the historical, social, and ideological contexts in which these works are situated, and explores the form and function of literary practice within the “miracle” societies of industrialized East Asia.

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Biographical Note

Margaret Hillenbrand, D.Phil. (2003), University of Oxford, is Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. She has published articles on East Asian literature and culture in a range of scholarly journals.

Review Quotes

'a book that represents the first of its kind dealing with “interregional” relations in East Asian literature. Hillenbrand has made a major contribution to her field.'
David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University, Journal of Japanese Studies 34:2 (2008)

'...Margaret Hillenbrand has given us here a very important book that indeed is path breaking in its comparison of Taiwan and Japanese literary practice. In allowing us to examine the works of each tradition in conjunction with those of the other, it offers insights unavailable to us when we are solely immersed in one of those traditions. Her mastery of the material is impressive and her conclusions are enriching.'
Christopher Lupke, Washington State University, Taiwan in Comparative Perspective, Vol. 2 (2008)

Literature, Modernity, and the Practice of Resistance will likely become a benchmark in East Asian Studies for its rigor, breadth, and clarion call for an intraregional approach to East Asian literary studies. Hillenbrand's in-depth explorations of the literary and political realms of Japan and Taiwan between 1960 and 1990 and her provacative state-of-the-field assessment, offers a promising alternative avenue of inquiry and clears more than enough discursive space for anyone willing to venture out from their national or ethnic literary trenches to explore the intraregional episteme.”
Bert Scruggs, University of California, Irvine
MCLC Research Center To see the entire review visit the website

"...the book is lucid, eloquent, and convincing....This is a must read for those who are interested in the cultural/literary interface between Japan and Taiwan, but can be read profitably by all interested in East Asian literature or the comparative enterprise. It is an important and a totally enjoyable contribution."
Faye Yuan Kleeman, University of Colorado, Journal of the American Oriental Society 128.3 (2008)

“Straddling both Taiwanese and Japanese studies, and crossing the boundary between the Chinese and Japanese languages, this book opens up possibilities for regional research. As such, it is the most praiseworthy achievement in the study of East Asian literature in recent years”.
Peng Hsiao-yen, Academia Sinica, Hanxue yanjiu28/2 (2008), 323-330.

Table of contents


    The regional imperative
    Interregional, interdisciplinary
    Literatures of disenchantment
    The outline of the book

Chapter One: The Scope of the Enquiry
    Regionalism in practice: cultural convergence in post Cold-War East Asia
    Regionalism and ‘alternative modernities’: towards a fruitful intersection
    Literary studies and the resistance to regionalism
    Contemporary East Asian comparative literature: an embattled discipline
    Old-school comparativism: a compromised practice
    The theory conundrum: promise and pitfalls
    Towards an intraregional comparative practice
    The dystopian impulse: roots, targets, and terminology
    Western modernism: borrowing and beyond
    Japan and Taiwan: the background to comparison
    Time-frame, themes, and tropes

Chapter Two: Rest & Recreation in the City: Dystopian
    Visions of US power in Cold War East Asia
    US hegemony in Cold War East Asia
    The US and its East Asian allies: the background to literary dissent
    Triangular paradigms for the geopolitical world
    Politics and sexuality: “Leap Before You Look” and the occupation narratives of Ôe Kenzaburô
    The past in the present: Nosaka Akiyuki’s “American Hijiki
    Huang Chunming’s Young Widows: Vietnam, R&R, and the entertainment boom
    Pimping on the grand scale: Wang Zhenhe’s Rose, Rose, I Love You

Chapter Three: Discord at Home: The Ruptured Family in Postwar Fiction
    Transformations in the family: basic themes
    Kinship change: the socio-cultural background to literary opposition
    The city and sexuality: the circuit of loss and substitution
    Wang Wenxing’s “Mother”: modernity, neurosis, and the incest taboo
    Paternalism and patriarchy in Bai Xianyong’s Cursed Sons
    Tokyo in apocalypse: Murakami Ryû’s Coin Locker Babies
    A fake fairytale of the consumer family: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Chapter Four: Sex and the City: Commodities of Choice
    Consumption in East Asia: general remarks
    The cult of consumerism in contemporary East Asia: the socio-economic background to literary opposition
    The urban marketplace: city and sexuality
    Mishima Yukio’s “The Million Yen”: income-doubling, ‘the three imperial regalia’, and consumption as sexual labor
    Journeys through the consumer maze: Murakami Haruki’s Dance, Dance, Dance
    Closed circuits of consumption: Dark Nights by Li Ang
    KTV city: Zhu Tianwen’s “Red Rose is Paging You”


    Japanese section
    Chinese section



The book will be required reading for all those interested in contemporary Chinese/Taiwanese and Japanese literature, comparative literature more widely, and East Asian cultural studies. 

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