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Two-Timing Modernity

Two-Timing Modernity

Homosocial Narrative in Modern Japanese Fiction

J. Keith Vincent

ISBN 9780674067127

Publication date: 11/19/2012

Until the late nineteenth century, Japan could boast of an elaborate cultural tradition surrounding the love and desire that men felt for other men. By the first years of the twentieth century, however, as heterosexuality became associated with an enlightened modernity, love between men was increasingly branded as “feudal” or immature. The resulting rupture in what has been called the “male homosocial continuum” constitutes one of the most significant markers of Japan’s entrance into modernity. And yet, just as early Japanese modernity often seemed haunted by remnants of the premodern past, the nation’s newly heteronormative culture was unable and perhaps unwilling to expunge completely the recent memory of a male homosocial past now read as perverse.

Two-Timing Modernity integrates queer, feminist, and narratological approaches to show how key works by Japanese male authors—Mori Ōgai, Natsume Sōseki, Hamao Shirō, and Mishima Yukio—encompassed both a straight future and a queer past by employing new narrative techniques to stage tensions between two forms of temporality: the forward-looking time of modernization and normative development, and the “perverse” time of nostalgia, recursion, and repetition.


  • Offering incisive textual analyses of homosociality in the texts of three canonical writers (Mori Ogai, Natsume Soseki, and Mishima Yukio) and one relatively unknown writer (Hamao Shiro), Vincent examines the male homosocial continuum in Japanese fiction, exploring the way male–male relationships in the novels under discussion have been relegated to a historical and narrative past where they persist in the ‘amber of memory.’ …Vincent’s study is unique in its careful articulation of the interface between the homosexual and the homosocial and the interaction both have with feminist theories and queer studies. What is perhaps even more significant, however, is the way Vincent reads the temporality of homosexual desire in both extratextual historical contexts and the intertextual narrative structure. In so doing, he shifts the focus of his argument from a general critique of culture to close textual readings. Here his literary analyses are astute, linguistically deft, and original. This is a path breaking work that will be an important resource for scholars of literature and sexuality.

    —R. L. Copeland, Choice


  • J. Keith Vincent is Assistant Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature at Boston University.

Book Details

  • 248 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center