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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Irony of the Sea: Romantic Disruptions of Japanese Literary Modernity

  • Author(s): Petitto, Joshua Michael
  • Advisor(s): Tansman, Alan
  • et al.

"The Irony of the Sea: Romantic Disruptions of Japanese Literary Modernity" uses recent studies on the 19th century European and American sea adventure novel to argue that Herman Melville's Moby-Dick represents a particular mode of maritime writing that works through a language of contradiction and paradox to reveal the limits of rational modes of thought and knowledge at the heart of Western modernity. It further identifies this form of writing, referred to herein as the "irony of the sea," as part of a romantic tradition of imagining maritime spaces as counter-spaces to rational modernity. By tracing the movement of the irony of the sea over three key moments in modern Japanese literary history--the 1890s, the 1930s, and the 1950s--this study aims to demonstrate the ways in which romantic thought not only persists throughout the modern period as part of an ongoing response to the experience of modernity, but how it also served as an impediment to and innovative force in the development and the production of literary and artistic forms.

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