Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

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



My dissertation explores the way Japanese women science fiction writers and manga (illustrated stories, often translated as comics) artists have used posthumans, cyborgs, and other hybrid creatures to question contemporary gender roles and identities. Traditionally, science fiction has been seen as a male domain. But by incorporating science fiction themes into manga and fiction intended for a female readership, these writers have carved out space for women in the genre and have stretched the boundaries of science fiction in the process. I focus primarily on the representation of posthuman bodies in the literary works of Ohara Mariko (b.1959) and Ueda Sayuri (b.1964), and the manga of Hagio Moto (b.1949). It is my contention that these women writers' use of posthuman or other liminal figures that breach the boundaries of humanity create a so-called "queer" effect that undoes normative sex/gender and sexualities. Queer effect is, in short, a moment or a space deviated from straight or normative worlds in order to serve feminist interests and to critique, both overtly and covertly, contemporary social customs.

Introduction offers the confinement and devaluation of women's writing and criticism in the science fiction community as well as more generally in Japanese literary history. All subsequent chapters in my dissertation offer close readings of texts that highlight particular aspects typical of women's science fiction in Japan, such as queering sex/gender, the evolution of cyborgs, the importance of performance, and alternative reproduction and familial relationships. Chapter One and Two further explore Hagio's manga experiments with the combined use of ambiguously sexed/gendered identities, especially androgynous and dual-sexed characters that challenge the dichotomy of sex/gender and the conventional notion of motherhood and female reproduction. Additionally, I consider the way she incorporates the male-male romance scenarios popular to girl's manga of the 1970s. Chapter Three investigates the cyborg characters in Ohara's works and shows how cyborg bodies highlight merging multiple genders and/or reconstruct gender through simulation. The cyborg in the text is constructed as either having a fixed or a free-floating gender. In contrast, the "feminine" space (consisting of mother-daughter dyads, images of both nurturing and destructive maternity, reproduction, monstrosity, and emotionality) is prominently simulated through parodic performance to challenge the masculinist portrayals of femininity. Chapter Four examines the ways genetically engineered dual-sexed beings are perceived by men and women in Ueda's work and illustrates how normative sexualities and binaristic gender discourse are challenged. Chapter Five continues the exploration of Ueda's works by focusing on the interdependent relationships between humans and non-humans. These relationships disrupt a coherent subjectivity and create alternative forms of queer families that undo received notions of what constitutes humanity and gender. In conclusion, these three authors contribute to the act of expressing posthuman feminist critiques through creating a new paradigm of gender. Their works paradoxically also take us back to unresolved binaristic gender concerns and open up ongoing questions of gender issues.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Rebecca Copeland

Committee Members

Nancy Berg, Ji-Eun Lee, Diane Wei Lewis, Marvin Marcus, Laura Miller, Jamie Newhard


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