Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

East Asian Languages and Culture: Japanese

Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Fantasy and mysticism often serve as key elements in escapist literature—constructing stories that move protagonists beyond the furthest reaches of the real, the familiar and the human. Yet, the otherworldly can also bring the protagonist within reach of the familiar if we consider the representations of mothering in the following Japanese narratives: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s “Longing for Mother” (1919), Izumi Kyōka’s “The Holy Man of Mount Kōya” (1900), Takahashi Takako’s “Doll Love” (1976), and Ono Masatsugu’s “Prayers from Nine Years Ago” (2014). Through their depictions based on supernatural and spiritual tropes, mystical-mother figures become metaphorical mirrors meant to reflect the protagonists’ ambivalent desires to escape and also to rejoin the social order. To illustrate this dynamic, this study highlights the non-rational motifs and themes that cast the maternal figures as both ideal and deviant in the above-mentioned narratives. This study also considers these stories in relation to the Meiji-era discourse on the ryōsai kenbo (“good wife, wise mother”), pointing out the past and ongoing role that ideal motherhood has been assigned in forging the connections between individuals and society. These works demonstrate consistency across modern and contemporary representations of ideal motherhood, but they also expand the range of depictions, such that the category of “wise mother” becomes a less restrictive one.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Rebecca L. Copeland, East Asian Languages and Cultures

Committee Members

Jamie Newhard, Marvin Marcus


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K73T9FJD