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The Autobiographical Narrative in Modern Japan: A Study of Kasai Zenzo, a Shi-Shosetsu Writer
Nakagawa, Masako [Nakagawa Graham]


This study offers both a chronological description of the literary career of Kasai Zenzō (1887-1928), as well as an historical examination of shi-shōsetsu (a Japanese autobiographical/confessional literary genre) during and after his lifetime. Zenzō was one of the most important shi-shōsetsu authors, living in the Taishō Period (1912-1926) in which this genre was in the height of its ascendancy. In shi-shōsetsu, the “I” novel, the author recounts details of his or her personal life with only a thin veneer of fiction. This genre was believed to be an ideal form of prose writing and an expression of individual depth, created without the fabrications normally found in conventional fiction, making it one of the most striking features of modern Japanese literature. Kasai, living his entire life in poverty, turned to Zen Buddhism for spiritual solace and became both a major architect of the Taishō shi-shōsetsu and its defining author.


“Some authors deserve to be the subject of monographs, yet linger at the edges of literary consciousness, outbid by more colorful contemporaries ... One particular casualty of the flaring center is Kasai Zenzō, in his day a major figure, in this day the subject of occasional vigorously defensive economium, but by and large left aside by the thriving industry of literary criticism in Japan ... Yet this writer is well worth attention, as Professor Nakagawa Masako of Villanova University explains in this valuable biography and study, the only one of its kind in English.” – Dr. Linda H. Chance, Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Pennsylvania

“Dr. Nakagawa’s new book is a provocative and compelling one for all those who are interested in not only the literature of Kasai Zenzō, but also in the history of Shi-shōsetsu, and in Japanese literature itself.” – Dr. Masotashi Tominaga

“Such an important and even crucial literary figure has never quite received his due or the proper attention, in part because he was not a prolific writer in comparison to others ... Dr. Nakagawa’s book not only fills a gap in Japanese studies in America, but will also certainly re-energize and shape Japanese scholars’ work on Kasai Zenzō as a result of her fresh and original insights.” – Professor Hailin Zhou, Villanova University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dr. Linda A. Chance
1 Tsugaru
2 Kasai, A Writer-to-Be
3 Ko o tsurete (With the Children in Tow)
4 Kasai and His Friends (Nakama)
5 Osei, Uichirō, and Sasaki
6 Kasai’s Vision of Literature: “Akuma”
7 At the Lakeside (Kohan shuki)
8 Shi-Shōsetsu and Bundan
9 Final Years
10 After Kasai
English Translations
Kanashiki chichi (A Sad Father)
Ko o tsurete (With the Children in Tow)
Yūdō enboku (A Swinging Pole)
A Biographical Chart

ISBN10:  0-7734-5396-2   ISBN13:  978-0-7734-5396-8    Pages:  188    Year:  2007   

Series: hors série Number: 0

Subject Areas:  Autobiography, History - Japan, Literature - Japanese,

Imprint: Edwin Mellen Press

USA List Price: $129.95 UK List Price: £ 89.95  

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