In the field of modern Japanese literature, Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) has become a virtual icon, enshrined in textbooks and the thousand-yen bill. By considering his works in the light of Gothic fiction, long considered unworthy of critical attention for their status as utter fiction and frivolity, this dissertation seeks to unearth the fictions in his texts.
Studies of the Gothic have tended to focus on its subversive potential, its ability to comment upon the darkness in man, to give voice to the unspeakable. It is a genre that appears particularly susceptible to feminist and psychoanalytic readings, with its derelict castles, subterranean passages, and fleeing, imprisoned, or otherwise incapacitated women. Yet in spite of, or perhaps even because of these elements, Gothic novels were first and foremost an enticing entertainment, a delicious escape to be enjoyed alone for hours on end. Through his novels, which were themselves an entertainment meant to attract and hold newspaper readers in the absence of reports from the battlefield, Sōseki reveals the presence of Gothic-like horrors within the fabric of the familiar scenes of modern Japanese society. He brings the Gothic into the home; both into the fictional homes of his fictional characters and into the “real” homes of his newspaper readers.
After analyzing Sōseki’s Bungakuron, I discuss several of his novels in the context of Gothic novels, including Kokoro, Gubijinsō, and Sorekara alongside the Gothic texts of Dracula, Northanger Abbey, and Vathek. I conclude that the fears and terrors of the Gothic, situated in distant locales and times, are in the work of Sōseki transplanted to the familiar scenes of our everyday existence, the here and now.
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