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Doctoral Project

Metafiction and Masculinities in Abe Kazushige’s 90s Fiction
Maria Römer (M.A.)

Eclectic in style and elusive in genre, Abe Kazushige’s 90s fiction defies categorizations. My dissertation situates the author’s novels and short stories published until 1999 within what it considers to be a global field of postmodernist poetics and politics since the late 1970s. It uses the term écriture to indicate the deconstructionist narrative discourse of the texts as an experimental ‘writing’.

I argue that the metafiction of Abe’s early novels and short stories provides a literary counter-discourse to cultural narratives on shifting male identities in post-bubble Japan by evoking conflicting images. On the one hand, the protagonists, who struggle to come of age as flexible workers in mid-1990s Japan, resort to physical violence in order to affirm archaic images of embodied masculinities to counteract their subordinate male status. On the other hand, this affirmation is queered, as the men are not able to form heterosexual relationships and instead obsess over homosocial bonds with peers.

Abe’s early novels and short stories as well as his media appearances can be considered nodal points of larger avant-garde debates that challenged established assumptions of how literature was supposed to be written in Japan at the time. In fact, Abe was at the center of a '90s generation' of intellectuals emerging during the decade. During a marketing campaign labeled 'J-Bungaku' (J-Literature), launched in 1998, these writers positioned themselves as a new group within the literary field in order to initiate a public discussion about outworn hegemonies of high literature.

In the first in-depth analysis of these important cultural discussions surrounding Abe’s fiction and his public persona in the mid-1990s, I intend to highlight Abe Kazushige’s crucial role as both public face and main facilitator of this literary movement. I further reframe the 1990s in Japan as formative phase for what some call the literature of global modernity. Lastly, I hope to introduce an under-translated author and his works into the global canon of World Literature.