Review: Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture, Michiko Suzuki. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010
Becoming Modern Women offers an absorbing insight into female identity in pre-war Japan through ideologies of love in the works of some of Japan’s most illustrious, yet oftneglected, literary women. Michiko Suzuki closely examines many narratives (some not yet translated) by Yoshiya Nobuko (1896–1973), Miyamoto Yuriko (1899–1951) and Okamoto Kanoko (1889–1939), re-reading them from new perspectives that show their engagement with early twentieth-century Japanese discourses of modern love ideology. The book introduces fresh ways of viewing the relationship between gender and modernity, showing how the literary works question the trajectory and meaning of female identity and produce alternative roles for women and girls. It also demonstrates the limitations of more standard criticism that promotes narrower images of female identity through autobiographical, religious or nationalistic interpretations. Suzuki’s investigation of the intersection of love, women and nation clearly articulates the changing landscape of pre-war Japan through intersecting literary and cultural discourses.
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