Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

The Aesthetics of Japanese Fascism

ALAN TANSMAN
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pq0g9
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Aesthetics of Japanese Fascism
    Book Description:

    In this wide-ranging study of Japanese cultural expression, Alan Tansman reveals how a particular, often seemingly innocent aesthetic sensibility—present in novels, essays, popular songs, film, and political writings—helped create an "aesthetic of fascism" in the years leading up to World War II. Evoking beautiful moments of violence, both real and imagined, these works did not lead to fascism in any instrumental sense. Yet, Tansman suggests, they expressed and inspired spiritual longings quenchable only through acts in the real world. Tansman traces this lineage of aesthetic fascism from its beginnings in the 1920s through its flowering in the 1930s to its afterlife in postwar Japan.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94349-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: The Aesthetics of Japanese Fascism
    (pp. 1-33)

    This book explores the aesthetics of fascism in 1930s Japan. It begins with the premise that culture is where fascism forms its ideological power, and it argues that Japanese fascism was fueled by a literary sensibility. The works that helped create this culture were linked by common aesthetic concerns: patterns of knowing, seeing, feeling, and representing the world that can be understood as fascist even when those patterns seemed to have no orientation to the realm of politics. All of these works depended on the languages of fascism, not only in their selection of individual images but also in some...

  6. 1. Modernist Beginnings: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and Kobayashi Hideo
    (pp. 34-48)

    InThe Sense of an Endingthe British literary critic Frank Kermode notes a ″pattern of anxiety″ in the modernist belief that the present is fast approaching an apocalypse. The approach is infinite, however, and turns the present into a time of perpetual crisis. Kermode suggests that this modernist belief lends itself to dramatic, dangerous solutions. ″Modernist radicalism in art,″ he argues, involves the creation of traditions that ″may be dangerous in the dispositions they breed towards the world.″ When William Butler Yeats tests his fictions against the real world in his praise of Italian or Irish fascism, when Wyndham...

  7. 2. The Beauty of Violence: Yasuda Yojūrō′s ″Japanese Bridges″
    (pp. 49-104)

    Yasuda Yojūrō′s ″Japanese Bridges,″ an essay concerning the cultural and literary meanings of Japanese bridges, worked an aesthetic magic on its readers, giving Yasuda sway over his young audience in the 1930s and dominance over the world of letters.¹ ″Japanese Bridges″ evokes moments of authenticity or purity—a beauty that can be evoked beyond the fractured space of modern life and consciousness. These moments form Yasuda′s fascist aesthetic. Though they may feel merely aesthetic, they are rife with political implications and suggest an endorsement of violence. Indeed, from innocent musings on bridges Yasuda arrives in ″Japanese Bridges″ at a spiritual...

  8. 3. Objects of the Sublime in Literary Writing: Yasuda Yojūrō, Yanagi Sōetsu, Kawabata Yasunari, and Shiga Naoya
    (pp. 105-149)

    I begin this chapter by repeating a question I have already asked: when the postwar Yasuda Yojūrō claimed to have opened young men′s hearts to the eternal, living beginning of creation, did he not own up to his responsibility for having shaped their lives? He insisted that he had not sent young men to their deaths but merely led them to the promised land of Japanese literature, to a place where Japanese literature might live eternally, untouched by time. In ″Japanese Bridges″ there exists no rough-and-tumble world, only art; and there exists no ″I″ to act in the world, only...

  9. 4. The Rhetoric of Unspoken Fascism: The Essence of the National Polity
    (pp. 150-168)

    The Essence of the National Polity (Kokutai no hongi)was one of the 1930s′ most widely disseminated ideological tracts. Its publication and distribution in 1937 marked a climax in the effort to form the Japanese population into a cohesive and uncritical mass. It was written at a time when ideologues of thekokutai, the ″national essence,″ were working harder than ever to persuade citizens of their tight connection to the state and its goals, citizens whose experiences seemed to be growing increasingly remote from images held aloft by the rhetoric of state ideology.¹ It was published on March 30, 1937,...

  10. 5. Sentimental Fascism on Screen: Mother under the Eyelids
    (pp. 169-193)

    If the fascist aesthetic is discernible in the subtle artistic work of highbrow artists and the less refined, official rhetoric of tracts likeThe Essence of the National Polity, the mass cultural form of the same fascist aesthetics—what might be called ″fascist sentimentality″—can be found in a popular movie′s depiction of a son′s search for his lost mother. The advantage of analyzing a popular movie is that it is more ideologically legible than complex literary works, intended, as it is, to reach the largest audience possible. Both highbrow and popular culture appeal to sentiments while helping to shape...

  11. 6. An Aesthetics of Devotion: Kobayashi Hideo’s Cultural Criticism
    (pp. 194-253)

    Kobayashi Hideo was the pivotal Japanese critic of his time.¹ The progenitor of literary and cultural criticism in Japan, Kobayashi blended serious reflection on aesthetics, literature, history, and politics with a poet′s sensibility. His intellectual reach was immense: from Buddhist aesthetics to European classical music; from the entire history of Japanese and European literature to sculpture, pottery, and painting; from the politics of literature to the literature of war; from poetics to European and Asian thought.² Kobayashi was what we might call a highbrow critic, and his language was often so recondite that he seemed interested in reaching only the...

  12. 7. Filaments of Fascism in Postwar Times
    (pp. 254-276)

    The fascist aesthetic, embodied in the fascist moment, offered a cure to a world emptied of its beauty by the depredations of modernity and by the cultural vacuum left by the restrictions and demands of the Japanese state. It also assuaged the sting of the prevailing sense of cultural belatedness vis-à-vis the West. If that culture in which Japanese intellectuals were saturated valued creative originality, and if Japanese artists could not hope to match that originality, then it made sense to develop an aesthetics of imitation to strike a blow for the native tradition. Not unlike seeking a homeopathic cure...

  13. Coda: Reading Fascist Aesthetics
    (pp. 277-280)

    In 1931 Virginia Woolf evoked the power of the aesthetic moment to convey ″the thing that lies beneath the semblance of the thing.″ InThe Waveslanguage moves in a pulsating rhythm between timeless wholeness and separation: ″And all faces are lit up, all conspire in a hush of tender joy; and then the mystic sense of completion and then the rasping, dog-fish skin-like roughness—those black arrows of shivering sensation, when she misses the post, when she does not come. Out rush a bristle of horned suspicions, horror, horror, horror—but what is the use of painfully elaborating these...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 281-338)
  15. Index
    (pp. 339-356)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 357-358)