This panel celebrates the extraordinary career of Tomioka Taeko (b. 1935) through papers that explore her acclaimed roles as a writer of fiction and poetry as members of this panel collectively demonstrate the rhetorical breadth and political prowess of Tomioka’s writings. Examining the ways in which Tomioka redefines sex as a carnal act for the protagonist narrator of her short story “Straw Dogs,” David Holloway shows the central role that Tomioka’s fiction plays in critical discourse on female sex and sexuality in modern Japan. Refusing conventional notions of romantic love, as well as the roles of caregiver and nurturer, “Straw Dogs” portrays the neglected topic of the sexually active middle-aged woman in Japan. Lee Friederich examines this adventurous stance toward sex and gender in one of Tomioka’s earliest published poems. In “Story of my Life,” Tomioka’s gender-changing protagonist defies “naturalized” gender categories decades before gender performance became a mainstay in feminist theory. Framing her discussion of the poem through Tomioka’s use of the abject figure of the amanojaku from Japanese folklore, Friederich also references Araki Nobuyoshi’s photographs of Tomioka to suggest Tomioka’s ongoing interest in performance and collaboration.
Paper Presenter: David Holloway – University of Rochester
Paper Presenter: Lee E. Friederich – Akita International University