Modernism, gender and consumer spectacle in 1920s’ Tokyo

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Hayter, IE (2015)
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis

A lot has been written about how in the first decades of the twentieth century cinema validated new perceptual structures and how these affected literary narrative. But the department store was also a vital part of the mobile spectacle of modernity. Ginza and its department stores provided experiences of urban flâneuring and visual consumption that would have important effects on gender and subjectivity. This essay focuses on three short stories published between 1922 and 1931, all set in department stores or on the Ginza: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s ‘Aoi hana’ (The Blue Flower, 1922), Itō Sei’s ‘M hyakkaten’ (The M Department Store, 1931) and Yokomitsu Riichi’s ‘Nanakai no undō’ (Seven Floors of Exercise, 1927). The stories share a radically experimental modernist form: fragmented interior monologues, montage-like juxtapositions, abrupt shifts of narrative perspective. They are also connected in their preoccupation with looking, with the drama of seeing and being seen. My analysis traces how the domain of vision becomes a place of struggle over subjectivity, how gendered visual hierarchies are undermined and at least temporarily reversed.
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