Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

East Asian Languages and Culture: Japanese

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Between 1875 and 1890, Japanese academics, writers, legal experts, and intellectuals discussed and debated a host of new ideas and programs in the rapidly-expanding national media. Of great consequence were the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education and the Meiji Constitution. The first sought to establish a strong nativist basis for a Japanese identity under the aegis of an imperial hegemon. The second sought to create a structure for modern citizenship based on Western notions of law and social contract. These seemingly antithetical documents came to symbolize the problematical status of the individual in Meiji Japan. They would become the touchstone of a larger discussion that concerned the Christian intellectual Uchimura Kanzō (1861-1930), who in 1891 refused to bow before a document bearing the personal signature of Emperor Meiji.

My dissertation positions Uchimura Kanzō as a pivotal figure in an ongoing examination of, and debate regarding, notions of citizenship, national identity, the proper role of writers and intellectuals, and the very notion of subjectivity and selfhood. Uchimura’s traditional values, social idealism, resolute Christian faith, and embrace of Western literary icons such as Dante Alighieri, Thomas Carlyle, and Johann Goethe helped inspire his deeply principled promotion of the inviolability of one’s personal credo and the responsibility of individuals to act for the greater good.

Placing Uchimura in the late-Meiji intellectual and literary context, the dissertation studies three key autobiographical works written by Uchimura in the early 1890s. These are compared to the work of important literary contemporaries, with an eye to the key role of the print media in the discussion and dissemination of ideas concerning the individual, the state, and the construction of a national identity. My interdisciplinary analysis, which incorporated historical, religious, philosophical, and literary approaches, will illuminate the manner in which Uchimura Kanzō’s life and writing both reflected the Meiji context and contributed to Japan’s national discourse at the turn of the twentieth century.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Marvin H. Marcus

Committee Members

Rebecca L. Copeland, Jamie L. Newhard, David Schmitt, Lori Watt,


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