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When Our Eyes No Longer See

When Our Eyes No Longer See

Realism, Science, and Ecology in Japanese Literary Modernism

Gregory Golley

ISBN 9780674027947

Publication date: 03/01/2008

As industrial and scientific developments in early-twentieth-century Japan transformed the meaning of “objective observation,” modern writers and poets struggled to capture what they had come to see as an evolving network of invisible relations joining people to the larger material universe. For these artists, literary modernism was a crisis of perception before it was a crisis of representation. When Our Eyes No Longer See portrays an extraordinary moment in the history of this perceptual crisis and in Japanese literature during the 1920s and 1930s.

The displacement in science of “positivist” notions of observation by a “realist” model of knowledge provided endless inspiration for Japanese writers. Gregory Golley turns a critical eye to the ideological and ecological incarnations of scientific realism in several modernist works: the photographic obsessions of Tanizaki Jun’ichiro’s Naomi, the disjunctive portraits of the imperial economy in Yokomitsu Riichi’s Shanghai, the tender depictions of astrophysical phenomena and human-wildlife relations in the children’s stories of Miyazawa Kenji.

Attending closely to the political and ethical consequences of this realist turn, this study focuses on the common struggle of science and art to reclaim the invisible as an object of representation and belief.


  • In his fascinating new study...Gregory Golley offers new perspectives on the ethical dimensions of twentieth-century literature by his rigorous consideration of both the art and the science of [Miyazawa] Kenji's work, together with that of his fellow members of Japan's modernist generation, Tanizaki Jun'ichiro and Yokomitsu Riichi...Golley's study makes for compelling reading and represents a major contribution to the growing body of scholarship on Japanese modernism.

    —William O. Gardner, Journal of Japanese Studies


  • Gregory Golley is an independent scholar living in Chicago.

Book Details

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