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Murakami Haruki: The simulacrum in contemporary Japanese culture

Seats, Michael Robert (2002) Murakami Haruki: The simulacrum in contemporary Japanese culture. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Over the past few decades Murakami Haruki has emerged as one of the most significant literary figures in Japan. Having produced some 86 original works and translations, he has recast the format of the novel, reformulated the parameters of contemporary literary style, and ventured into non-fiction writing and social commentary. He is now a thoroughly 'globalized' writer, with works translated into ten languages.

While much of the critical literature on Murakami in Japanese has recently become more sophisticated, critiques in English have remained largely bound to the conventional analyses applied to earlier forms of modem Japanese fiction. In particular, the nexus in Murakami's writing between modernity, subjectivity and representation has been poorly theorized.

This thesis offers a new approach to dealing with Murakami's radical narrative project, by demonstrating how his first and later trilogies utilize the structure of the simulacrum, a second-order representation, to develop a critique of contemporary Japanese culture. After outlining the critical-fictional contours of the 'Murakami Phenomenon', the discussion will address the vexed question of Japanese modernity within the context of the national-cultural imaginary, globalized artistic discourses, and the idea of the Japanese novel. Some competing perspectives on the theory of the simulacrum will then be presented as a way of demonstrating the wide applicability of a syncretic model of the simulacrum.

Murakami's first trilogy is analyzed in terms of its use of the tropes of parody, pastiche, metafiction, allegory and 'landscape' - all of which are shown to be modalities of the simulacrum. Indicating a tentative 'return' of the referent, the second and much later trilogy is investigated in terms of the way in which it uses the structure of the simulacrum to problematize the distinction between the discourses of 'fiction' and 'history' via the aesthetic modalities of the sublime. The thesis concludes by demonstrating that within the context of current media-entertainment technologies and the competing discursive regimes of contemporary Japanese culture, Murakami's destabilization of hitherto clearly defined genres of writing is also indicative of a new politics of representation, the limits of which have only just begun to emerge.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Ruthrof, Horst, Muta, Orie and Suga, A.
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