Skip to main content

The Disintegrating Machinery of the Modern: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke's Late Writings

  • Seiji M. Lippit

Akutagawa Ryūnosuke's suicide in July 1927, coming little more than half a year after the beginning of the Shōwa period, seemed to many at the time to signify the end of an era. A number of writers and critics, for example, interpreted his death as marking the defeat of an intellectual (or aestheticized) literary practice disengaged from historical and social reality. This point was particularly emphasized by several prominent Marxist critics, who read his personal crisis as “one aspect of a collapsing bourgeoisie” (Sekiguchi 1993, 4: 334). Miyamoto Kenji crystallized this sentiment in his landmark 1929 essay, “Haiboku no bungaku” (The Literature of Defeat), in which he wrote that Akutagawa's late writings and death constituted a warning to bourgeois intellectuals of the inevitable and disastrous result of their aestheticism and hermeticism (Sekiguchi 1993, 6: 222–46). Indeed, Akutagawa's expression of “vague anxiety” as the cause of his suicide, coupled with the turbulent and transitional character of the 1920s, transformed his death from a personal, private catastrophe into a general historical allegory, an empty vessel into which a variety of narrative interpretations could be projected. In this way, Akutagawa's suicide achieved the status of an eminently historical gesture.

Hide All
Aeba, Takao. 1976. Kindai no kaitai. Tokyo: Kawade Shobō Shinsha.
Aeba, Takao. 1987. “Kaisetsu.” In Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū. Vol. 4. Tokyo: Chikuma Bunko.
Akutagawa, RyŪNosuke. 1978. Akutagawa Ryunosuke zenshū. Vols. 1–12. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
Althusser, Louis. 1971. Lenin and Philosophy. Translated by Brewster, Ben. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Anderer, Paul. 1984. Other Worlds: Arishima Takeo and the Bounds of Modern Japanese Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press.
Anderer, Paul. 1995. Literature of the Lost Home: Kobayashi Hideo–Literary Criticism, 1924– 1939. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1984. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Iswolsky, HÈLÉNe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Doak, Kevin Michael. 1994. Dreams of Difference: The Japan Romantic School and the Crisis of Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dorsey, James. 1997. “An Intersection of Aesthetics and Ideology: Kobayashi Hideo, 1922–1942.” Ph.D. diss., University of Washington.
Genkawa, Tomoyoshi, and Bernard, Susser, trans. 1989. The Kyoto Collection: Stories from the Japanese. Osaka: Niheisha.
Gerow, A. A. 1995. “The Self Seen As Other: Akutagawa and Film.”Literature/Film Quarterly 23.3: 197203.
Gide, AndrÈ. 1973. The Counterfeiters. Translated by Bussy, Dorothy. New York: Vintage Books.
Greenberg, Clement. 1961. “Modernist Painting.” Arts Yearbook 4: 103–8.
Greenberg, Clement. 1986. The Collected Essays and Criticism. Vol. 1. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Harootunian, Harry D. 1974. “Introduction: A Sense of an Ending and the Problem of Taishō.” In Japan in Crisis: Essays on Taishō Democracy, edited by Silberman, Bernard and Harootunian, Harry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hibbett, Howard S. 1970. “Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and the Negative Ideal.” In Personality in Japanese History, introduced and edited by Craig, Albert M. and Shively, Donald H.. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Isoda, Koichi. 1977. “Akutagawa Ryūnosuke-ron: taishū seishin no ichi danmen.” in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke II. Edited by Kankokai, Nihon Bungaku KenkyŪ Shiryo. Tokyo: Yuseido Shuppan.
Karatani, Kojin. 1991The Discursive Space of Modern Japan.” Translated by Lippit, Seiji M.. boundary 2. 18:3
Karatani, Kojin. 1993- Origins of Modern Japanese Literature. Translation edited by Bary, Brett De. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press.
Kawakami, Tetsutaro and Takeuchi, Yoshimi. 1979. Kindai no chōkoku. Tokyo: Fusanbo.
Keene, Donald. 1984. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Kohl, Stephen W. 1990. “Abe Jir– and The Diary of Santar–.” In Culture and Identity: Japanese Intellectuals During the Interwar Years, edited by Rimer, J. Thomas. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Matejka, Ladislav, and Krystyna, Pomorska, eds. 1978. Readings in Russian Poetics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Miyoshi, Yukio, ed. 1981. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke hikkei. Tokyo: Gakutosha.
Nakamura, Mitsuo. 1969. Contemporary Japanese Fiction 1926–1968. Tokyo: Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (Japan Cultural Society).
Napier, Susan J. 1996. The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature. London: Routledge.
Natsume, SŌSeki. 1995. Sōseki zenshū. Vol. 16. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1956. The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals. Translated by Golfing, Francis. New York: Doubleday.
Notehelfer, F. G. 1990. “On Idealism and Realism in the Thought of Okakura Tenshin.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 16.2: 309–55.
Odagiri, Hideo, et al., ed. 1976. Bungaku: Shōwa jūlnendai o kiku. Tokyo: Keisō Shobō.
Okakura, Kakuzo. 1964. The Book of Tea. New York: Dover Publications.
Okakura, Kakuzo. 1970. The Ideals of the East. Tokyo: Tuttle.
Saeki, ShÖIchi. 1993. Monogatarigeijutsu ron: Tanizaki, Akutagawa, Mishima. Tokyo: Chuko bunko.
SatÖ, Haruo. 1975. Bungei tokuhon: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke. Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha.
Sekiguchi, Yasuyoshi, ed. 1993. Akūutagawa Ryūnosuke kenkyū shiryō shūsei. Vols. 1–11. Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Center.
Suzuki, Tomi. 1996. Narrating the Self: Fictions of Japanese Modernity. Stanford, Calif: stanford University Press.
Tanizaki, JunichirŌ. 1982. Tanizaki Junichirō zenshū. Vol. 12. Tokyo: Chūō Kōronsha.
Tayama, Katai. 1983. Tokyo no sanjūnen. Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Center.
Tsuruta, Kinya. 1970. “Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and I-Novelists.” Monumenta Nipponica 25.1–2: 1327.
Valery, Paul. 1958. The Art of Poetry, The Collected Works of Paul Valéry. Vol. 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Washburn, Dennis C. 1995. The Dilemma of the Modern in Japanese Fiction. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.
Wilde, Oscar. 1971. “The Decay of Lying.” In Critical Theory Since Plato, edited by Adams, Hazard. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Yamaguchi, Masao et al. 1992. “Shokuminchishugi to kindai Nihon.” Hihyo Kūkan. No. 7: 6–41.
Yasuda, YojŪRŌ. 1977. “Futari no shijin.” In Nihon Rōmanha, edited by KankŌKai, Nihon Bungaku KenkyŪ ShiryŌ. Tokyo: Yuseido Shuppan.
Yoshida, Seiichi. 1958. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke. Tokyo: Shinchō Bunko.
Yu, Beongcheon. 1972. Akutagawa: An Introduction. Detroit, Mich: Wayne State University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed