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Representations of “the West,”“Japan,” and “the Periphery” in the Discourse of Lafcadio Hearn Studies


  • Translated by Jeff Kurashige.


The purpose of this article is to analyze representations of “the West,”“Japan,” and “the Periphery” in the discourse of research on Lafcadio Hearn (“Hearn studies”) from pre-war Japan. The nature and construction of nationality will be analyzed by examining where the representations of “the West,”“Japan,” and “the Periphery” intersected. During the 1900s, researchers in the field of Hearn studies recognized that “Japan” lacked—and thus sought—a universality similar to what existed in “the West.” The tone of the discourse shifted during the 1910s through 1920s however, and what came to be emphasized was “Japan's” peculiarity. By the 1930s through 1940s, “Japan” aimed to show to “the West” a new universality that was different from what existed in Europe and America. Yet simultaneously, in order to legitimize its representation of its self, “Japan” portrayed “the Periphery” as an object that was both excluded and absorbed or appropriated into that image. On the one hand, “Japan” received and internalized the Orientalist viewpoint of “the West.” In fact, “Japan” was always conscious of its self-image as something to display to “the West.” On the other hand, in order to create that self-portrayal, both a representation of “the Periphery” and a reflection from that same “Periphery” were essential. While representations of “Japan” were produced, reproduced, and reinforced through interactions with “the West” and “the Periphery,” the intersecting behavior of these three entities also points to a residual ambiguity in “Japan's” nationality. By analyzing the discourse in Hearn studies, this paper reveals how the interaction between “Japan” and the two others of “the West” and “the Periphery” helped construct and destabilize its nationality.