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Advertising Tower

Advertising Tower

Japanese Modernism and Modernity in the 1920s

William O. Gardner

ISBN 9780674021297

Publication date: 05/15/2006

On a December morning in 1925, a newspaper journalist reported receiving 25 different handbills in an hour's walk in downtown Tokyo, advertising everything from Western-style clothing and furniture to sweet shops, charity organizations, phonograph recordings, plays, and films. The activities of advertisers, and the new entertainment culture and patterns of consumption that they promoted, helped to define a new urban aesthetic emerging in the 1920s.

This book examines some of the responses of Japanese authors to the transformation of Tokyo in the early decades of the twentieth century. In particular, it explores the themes and formal strategies of the modernist literature that flourished in the 1920s, focusing on the work of Hagiwara Kyojiro (1899-1938) and Hayashi Fumiko (1903-1951). William Gardner shows how modernist works offer new constructions of individual subjectivity amid the social and technological changes that provided the ground for the appearance of "mass media." Hagiwara's conception of the poem and poet as an electric-radio "advertising tower" provides an emblem for the aesthetic tensions and multiple discourses of technology, media, urbanism, commerce, and propaganda that were circulating through the urban environment at the time; while Hayashi's work, with its references to popular songs, plays, and movies, suggests an understanding of "everyday life" as the interface between individual subjectivity and a highly mediated environment.


  • William Gardner's Advertising Tower will be a staple of modern Japanese literary studies for years to come. The author's command of his subject ranges across a broad thematic terrain, moving from the rarefied problems of poetic form to the geography of empire, from the roots of anarchism to the history of commercial advertising...It is Gardner's effort to appreciate the link between "mass culture" as a formal problem and "the masses" as a historical reality that sets his work apart...Every book contains a record of where an author has been and a foreshadowing of where she might go. Advertising Tower bespeaks an education under the tutelage of some of the world's best teachers of Japanese literature; it also hints at promising books ahead. I look forward to William Gardner's next one.

    —Gregory Golley, Journal of Japanese Studies


  • William O. Gardner is Assistant Professor of Japanese at Swarthmore College.

Book Details

  • 349 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center