Women in the Middle

Margherita Long (Chair), UC Riverside

Nina Cornyetz, NYU Gallatin School
Anna-Marie Farrier, Independent Scholar, Tokyo, Japan 
Sayumi Takahashi Harb (Organizer), Connecticut College

Women in the Middle: Re-centering the Feminine in Sōseki’s Novels

The structure of heterosexual-homosocial triangulation (often in the form of love rivalries involving two men and one woman) recurs as a central pattern in many Sōseki’s narratives. The figure of the woman in the middle, while often marginalized in scholarship despite the interventions of dedicated scholars such as Go Kei (Oh Kyung), Seki Reiko and the late Komashaku Kimi, nonetheless functions as an indispensible nucleus anchoring Sōseki’s fiction. This panel seeks to re-examine the various ways in which the feminine constitutes a mediating force in three key novels: Sorekara, Sanshirō, and Mon. The papers and discussion suggest new directions in feminist analysis and interpretation of Sōseki’s texts by intersecting with genre theory, gender studies, post-colonial interventions, and thing theory (cf. Bill Brown). Furthermore, the papers question how and why the axes of time and space may be read as gendered, and what is at stake in certain feminizing operations within the texts. Cornyetz analyzes the operations of time and matrimonial tedium in Mon as staging historico-sexual paralyses of the modern subject. Farrier reads Sorekara from the starting point of English Gothic fiction, and examines the uncanny role of feminized objects and the figure of Michiyo as constitutive of what she calls “the urban supernatural.” Takahashi Harb explores the intertextual evocation Western women writers (particularly Aphra Behn) in Sōseki’s work, arguing for a post-exotic reading of Sanshirō.