Post-doc project on the Japanese bundan.
Abstract to “In Defence of our Culture”. Mishima Yukio as a Theoretician within the Japanese Discourse on Identity of the 1960s:
The aim of this dissertation is to position Mishima Yukio as theoretician and aesthete within the Japanese discourse on identity in the 1960s. I will translate Mishima’s central, as yet untranslated theoretical essay Bunka beiron ('In Defence of our Culture', 1968), then conduct aclose reading of the text and finally embed it into the 1960s’ discourse on ‘Japaneseness’ and identity.
I will critically examine Mishima’s essay and his understanding and critique of ‘the postwar’ and also illustrate how he grasps the interdependence of culture, tradition, monarchy and nation. Mishima regards the Japanese emperor as a ‘cultural concept’ and the element that symbolises Japanese culture in its totality. For Mishima this ‘cultural concept’ is rooted in western philosophy as ‘value in itself’ – thus referring to Immanuel Kant, while also being entrenched in traditional Japanese aesthetics as miyabi.
The description of Mishima’s discourse on identity will bring to light the importance of the Japanese emperor not only for this author but for ‘national’ identity discourse since 1868. Japan’s painful encounter with Western modernity needs to be kept in mind in order to fully understand the importance of the tenno for the question of Japanese identity.
Through widening the scope of my research into Mishima’s complete works, scrutinising them with respect to the search for a ‘Japanese identity’, I hope to cast new light on what is often interpreted simply in nationalistic terms in order to show that his work is multilayered and that it can be read on different levels.