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In Session: Gender and the Proletariat in Transwar Japan
4: Hirabayashi Taiko Tackles the Love Question
Friday, March 26, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
DePaul University, United States
In 1931, Kurahara Korehito decried the boom in proletarian works dealing with the “love question,” going so far as to write that while “until recently, strikes and tenant farmer struggles were the main topic, now the focus is on love” (“Geijutsuteki hōhō ni tsuite no kansō”). Kurahara reviews a crop of lamentable works—all written by men—and suggests proletarian writers (men?) best deal with love within the context of the class struggle rather than giving the narrative over to it as in bourgeois fiction. Kurahara contrasts the love problems of those actually participating in the revolutionary struggle with literary representations of love that had recently appeared. In real life, Kurahara writes, love is not such a “cursed problem” so long as people do not mope about it when it ends in a break-up. By contrast, perennial critic and author Hirabayashi Taiko’s works attack the patriarchal privilege that adhered in the movement as they shed light on how a woman might create a space for herself and others as a female comrade seeking to transform society, especially “Mottomo atarashii ren’ai” (1927), “Musan fujin to ren’ai” (1930), “Ottoron” (1930), “Furuki teisōkan no hôkai” (1930). Taiko’s legacy has been examined by feminists eager to reclaim her bold critiques but often at some distance from the proletarian movement which she would later disavow. This presentation examines her works in the context of her male and female peers addressing gender privilege and what’s to be done.