Exhausted by their Battles with the World: Neurasthenia and the Late-Meiji Writer

Christopher Hill, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Yale University

Neurasthenia or Shinkei suijaku entered the cultural imagination of Japan in the late nineteenth century and after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) became a ubiquitous vehicle for criticizing the state of Japanese society. As a "disease of civilization," caused by the stresses of modern life, neurasthenia was easily transformed into a social metaphor. Japanese writers eagerly appropriated the idea as they worked to create new forms of fiction. Shimazaki Tôson's 1908 novel Haru (Spring) illustrates the possibilities and limitations of neurasthenia as a vehicle for social critique, which extended to writers' own conceptions of their enterprise.

Friday, October 30, 2009 | 12:00 pm — 1:15 pm
Okimoto Conference Room, Encina Hall East, 3rd Floor

Center for East Asian Studies