Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

East Asian Languages and Culture: Japanese Language and Comparative Literature


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Rebecca Copeland


This dissertation examines the dramatic use of personae of abjection in the works of contemporary and postwar Japanese women poets Ishigaki Rin: 1920-2004), Tomioka Taeko: b. 1935), Yoshihara Sachiko: 1932-2002), It├┤ Hiromi: b. 1955), and Isaka Yok├┤: b. 1949). Recognizing the strong sense of abjection that permeates postwar and contemporary Japanese poetry in general, I explore the ways in which women poets embody the abject--the fantastically grotesque, the deviant and the mortally wounded--in their poetry. Turning away from the dictates of twentieth century critics that women poets write in a transparently autobiographical mode: primarily about their experiences as wives and mothers), these poets take up personae of abjection in order to both recognize the ways in which Japanese women have suffered through sexual slavery, for example, as well as to extend notions of "experience" to include acts of the imagination. The abject takes many shapes in this dissertation: the fantastic manifestation of female power within the home and the fallen postwar nation-state in Ishigaki Rin's poetry, the rebellious spirit that refuses the notion of dichotomous gender identity in that of Tomioka Taeko's, and the abject wounds of love in Yoshihara Sachiko's poetry. The aesthetic considerations of the abject are taken up in this dissertation's examination of poetry by It├┤ Hiromi and Isaka Y├┤ko, both of whom take a strongly experimental approach that so often ruptures the semiotic boundaries of language as a symbolic medium of thought. Making use of theories of abjection and horror put forth by Western feminists such as Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler, this dissertation also analyzes the poetry in relationship to recent scholarship by Japanese feminist critics such as Mizuta Noriko and Arai Toyomi as a means of discussing the aesthetic concerns of the poets as well as relationships between gender and power that their poetry describes. While Japanese originals are placed side-by-side with the author's forty-some translated poems in order to increase the accessibility of these works to non-Japanese readers, this dissertation stresses the innovative and nuanced ways in which these postwar and contemporary poets express their poetic sensibilities through the Japanese language.


Permanent URL: