Spaces of Their Own - Women-only Worlds in Contemporary Japanese Literature

Spaces of Their Own - Women-only Worlds in Contemporary Japanese Literature
Works depicting women-only worlds in Western literature proliferated in the 1970s as part of the rising feminist movement. These works tend to be classified as feminist utopias, created as part of feminist political and theoretical debates, closely connected with the women’s liberation movement and in particular with feminist separatism. Consequently, these works have been examined in terms of their contribution or lack thereof to the feminist discourse and their potential capacity to mobilize for change.

I claim that at least in the case of Japanese women writers, this approach is limiting and interferes with a richer understanding of the works. My dissertation examines women-centered worlds, societies, or spaces, from which men are barred or in which they constitute a negligible minority, focusing primarily on the works of three contemporary Japanese writers: Kurahashi Yumiko (1935-2005), Suzuki Izumi (1949-1986), and Shōno Yoriko (b.1956). Situating each author within her own literary oeuvre and historical moment, I show that these texts are embedded within a particular cultural moment and reflect each author’s unique approach to oppression in a male-dominated society and her unique literary style and point of view. I contend that while the examined works are part of artistic expression of anxiety and discomfort related to women’s position in society, they must not be examined as blueprints for a better social order. I re-examine antiworld, a key concept in Kurahashi’s literature, and offer a new understanding of this canonical writer. Suzuki is a writer who until recently has been overlooked by research, and I examine her work as reflecting the idea of resistance to group ideologies. Finally, I discuss the works of Shōno, an award-winning but under-researched writer, centering on concepts of “place” and “movement.” This approach offers a better representation of the authors’ literary oeuvre and the socio-political and cultural background underpinning it, as well as a possible path for re-evaluation of similar Western works.


Irit Weinberg

Defended in

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

PhD defended at

Tel Aviv University, Israel