Scaling the Nation: Local Literary Production and National Literature in Postwar Japan, 1946-1955
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Scaling the Nation: Local Literary Production and National Literature in Postwar Japan, 1946-1955


This dissertation reintegrates the print culture of northern Tōhoku from the first decade of Japan’s postwar period into our understanding of postwar literary history. To date, urban print culture has been scaled to a conceptual space congruent with the postwar Japanese “nation,” obscuring the breadth and complexity of postwar print production. The postwar period witnessed an unprecedented boom in magazine publishing, one that was driven by independently produced non-urban texts. This dissertation deploys an archival methodology that reads postwar print in the aggregate, without concern for scalar modes of assessing literary value derived from circulation, distribution, or readership. Doing so reveals a participatory print culture aimed at decentralizing capital-centric literary production and incorporating democratic revolution within the space and labor of local publishing. Chapter 1 establishes three critical approaches that will guide the dissertation: scale, archivization, and concept-work. Scalar methodologies show the postwar Debate on National Literature (kokumin bungaku ronsō) as not purely a hypothetical intellectual debate but a reaction to developments in independent rural print. Chapter 2 reads Occupation censorship documents held in the Prange Collection against the holdings of northern Tōhoku libraries, showing how post-censorship was more widespread and less effective than previously understood. Chapter 3 critiques the intersection of gender and locality, showing how rural women have been excised from literary history. The chapter challenges the gendered reading and archival practices that develop from urban print capital, arguing instead for critical approaches founded in class, gender, and environment. Chapter 4 addresses the category of “Farmers’ Literature” (nōmin bungaku), arguing that the writers active in northern Japan had little concern for a national literary movement. Instead, they advocated for a re-localizing of both print culture and democratic politics. Chapter 5 imagines how Occupation censorship of local magazines can also impact “larger” scales, like world literature. Deliberately reading Occupation censorship archives as world literature rewrites the criteria by which translations come to be thought of as literature.

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