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Studies in the Comic Spirit in Modern Japanese Fiction

Studies in the Comic Spirit in Modern Japanese Fiction

Joel R. Cohn

ISBN 9780674847118

Publication date: 05/27/1998

Unlike traditional Japanese literature, which has a rich tradition of comedy, modern Japanese literature is commonly associated with a high seriousness of purpose. In this path-breaking study, Joel R. Cohn analyzes works by three writers—Ibuse Masuji (1898-1993), Dazai Osamu (1909-1948), and Inoue Hisashi (1934- )—whose works constitute a relentless assault on the notion that comedy cannot be part of serious literature.

Cohn focuses on thematic, structural, and stylistic elements in the works of these writers to show that modern Japanese comedic literature is a product of a particular set of historical, social, and cultural experiences. Cohn finds that cultural and social forces in modern Japan have led to the creation of comic literature that tends to deflect attention away from a human other and turn in on itself in different forms.


  • Despite the flourish of Western studies of Japanese literature in the past few decades, the comic spirit in modern Japanese fiction has been largely overlooked, and Joel Cohn in this pioneering project has undertaken the challenging task of identifying the source of laughter...Hopefully this book will inspire many to search for laughter, to the gentle comic spirit, in modern Japanese literature as well as its connection to the past.

    —Angela Yiu, Journal of Japanese Studies


  • Joel R. Cohn is Associate Professor of Japanese at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Book Details

  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center