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Birth of the Female Student-Writer in Meiji Japan (1868-1912): Miyake Kaho’s The Warbler in the Grove


The first female modern prose writer in Japan, Miyake Kaho (1868-1944) was a young college student when she published Yabu no uguisu (The Warbler in the Grove). Warbler appears to have a simple plot, in which a young girl’s selfless act is rewarded by marriage to a wealthy gentleman. At a deeper level, however, it delivers progressive ideas about modern women’s lives in high society, ideas which often go against the contemporary government policies. In Warbler, I recognize Kaho’s resistance against the pressures from the dominant discourse in the Meiji era as well as the hope she has provided to her fellow female students. This paper examines the interactions of such issues as women’s education, gender norms in relation to class, and construction of female sexuality in the Meiji period under overwhelming Western influences. I will argue that the main theme of Warbler is the need of a modern education for women in the upper class, which is thought by the author to give them access to national politics. Also, contrary to the conventional views that Warbler is a mere imitation of contemporary male writers’ works, this paper argues that Warbler actually inspired the contemporary male writer’s work, namely, Saganoya Omuro’s Hakumei no Suzuko (Suzuko, the Unfortunate).

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