Abstracts - Yumi Kim

PhD Candidate in Modern Japanese History, Columbia University
Yumi Kim's profile

The “Nature” of Hysteria in Natsume Sōseki’s Michikusa (1915)

Natsume Sōseki’s Michikusa features Kenzō, a quintessential male neurasthenic, and his wife Osumi, a woman who has suffered from hysterical attacks in the past. Reading the novel within the context of a history of nervous illness, I suggest that the novel, as a potentially self-reflexive form that makes reference to its own linguistic and aesthetic contrivances, exposes “hysteria” for what it was in early-twentieth-century Japan: a product of social and representational practices that often revealed more about the concerns of men than the experiences of women. In Michikusa, readers perceive Osumi’s hysteria through the trope of reflection, which causes feelings and other invisible yet tangible sensations to travel back and forth between characters. In this way, Sōseki makes readers aware of the distorted reflections that mediate communication between individuals and that endow hysteria, both in the novel and beyond, with a reality that it otherwise might not have had.