Session Abstract: The papers in this panel address gender conflicts and contradictions that arose for activist-writers and their families in the proletarian literature movement. Despite being populated with many gender progressives and boundary crossers, the movement and its context were mired in heterosexual male privilege which tended to assume that women’s bodies and experiences were peripheral or abnormal. Yuko Iida discusses the conflict at the core of a 1931 proletarian literature anthology: while it was published for profit to support the families of imprisoned comrades, some of the stories within it dramatize the special challenges facing women separated from a male protector. Samuel Perry discusses Sata Ineko’s 1950s reflections on her embodied complicity as a woman and former proletarian writer, during the wartime empire. Sarah Frederick discusses two 1930s works by Yoshiya Nobuko that posit the experience of a woman as akin to the proletariat class. Heather Bowen-Struyk discusses works by Hirabayashi Taiko, whose relationship to the proletarian literature was doubly vexed by politics and sex, in light of their commonalities with critiques from within the movement’s center. Together, these papers investigate prewar and postwar literature by women and men, as well as communists and liberals, to reveal larger patterns in the radical engagement with received ideas of the family and what it means to be a woman.
Paper Presenter: Yuko IIDA – Nagoya University
Paper Presenter: Samuel Perry – Brown University
Paper Presenter: Sarah Frederick – Boston University
Paper Presenter: Heather Bowen-Struyk – DePaul University