From the autobiographical to the surreal: the early fiction and zuihitsu of Uchida Hyakken

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From the autobiographical to the surreal: the early fiction and zuihitsu of Uchida Hyakken

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Title: From the autobiographical to the surreal: the early fiction and zuihitsu of Uchida Hyakken
Author: DiNitto, Rachel
Abstract: This dissertation is a re-evaluation of the 1920s--1940s fiction of the short story writer and Natsume Soseki disciple Uchida Hyakken (1889--1971), who underwent a literary revival in the 1980s. Previous scholars lamented Hyakken's marginalized status and turned their attention to biographical aspects of his first fictional collection Realm of the Dead (Meido, 1922). This study begins by reconsidering the period of his debut and early fame, the late Taisho and early Showa eras (1920s--1930s), and seeks to uncover the reasons behind his marginalization via an exploration of literary genre and publication history. Hyakken's literature from this period is key to understanding both his oeuvre and important literary trends of the era, both canonical and noncanonical.In conjunction with issues of canonization and genre, this study also explores new critical models for evaluating Hyakken's early work and for reinserting it into Taisho period literature. In this vein, comparisons are drawn between Hyakken and Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Sato Haruo and Tanizaki Jun'ichiro. By questioning the label of "dreams," which is commonly applied to Realm of the Dead, this study offers an alternate means for analyzing Hyakken's early fiction as a part of Taisho period (1912--1926) experimentation.Realm of the Dead was a critical failure, but Hyakken rebounded eleven years later with Hyakkien's Miscellany (Hyakkien zuihitsu, 1933). Although the genre of the zuihitsu or "miscellany" has strong premodern associations, this collection should be regarded as part of the resurgence in zuihitsu writing in the 1920s and 1930s. This seemingly autobiographical collection of scattered essays brings to light issues of first-person narration and the relationship between fictional characters and their real life authors. These were important issues for writers of the period and Hyakken demonstrates his awareness of them by creating a slippery "autobiographical space" in the nexus of fiction, zuihitsu and autobiography.Hyakken's later stories draw on both the dark fictional world of Realm of the Dead and the lighter, more autobiographically based Hyakkien's Miscellany. This study concludes by examining three works in which Hyakken blends styles from his early career and continues to challenge biographical readings that remain prevalent in Hyakken criticism.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2000

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