Rina Kikuchi: women & poetry in WWII Japan

Filling in the ‘blank page’ of literary history: What were women fighting for in WWII Japan through their poetry?

Thursday 26 October, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

When compared, women’s poetry (as well as women’s writing in general) during the war‐time Japan (1941‐45) seems to be shockingly different before and after WWII. Their strong belief in feminism and modernism seems to have been completely discarded in their propaganda poetry in support of the war and the government’s party line during WWII. Some critics argue that women wrote these propaganda poems because there was no other choice, however, I argue it is not the case. This paper examines what is continued and what seems to be discontinued in women’s poetry written in WWII Japan, and discusses why women poets are hardly ever criticized by male literary scholars for writing propaganda poems in support of war, and the danger of mythologizing women as innocent motherly figures who cannot write brutal bloody poetry for war.

Rina Kikuchi is an Associate Professort at Shiga University Japan. She has an M.A. in comparative literary theory from the University of Warwick, UK, and a Ph.D in contemporary Irish poetry from Chiba University, Japan, for which her study included a year of research at Trinity College, Dublin. At present, she is a visiting fellow at ANU and the University of Canberra, and conducting her research on modern and contemporary Japanese women’s poetry, which includes translating their works into English. Her most recent book is a bilingual anthology, Poet to Poet: Contemporary Women Poets from Japan (Recent Work Press, 2017) coedited with a NZ/Australia poet, Jen Crawford.


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