Recasting Red Culture in Proletarian Japan
This chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book aims to restore much of the forgotten ideological and aesthetic complexity of Japan's proletarian movement and show that it must be central to any understanding of modern Japanese culture in the early Shōwa period. Instead of focusing on the celebrated novels of proletarian literature, a body of fiction that was canonized in large part by the Japanese Communist Party, it excavates from the historical archive hitherto unexamined works of proletarian culture: fairy tales, children's songs, propaganda, “wall fiction,” as well as several works of poetry, fiction, and criticism about colonial Korea. These short narratives were not simply epiphenomena of theoretical debates of the time, but constituted theoretically rich documents themselves and were engaged in a dialogue with historical events, broader intellectual and social practices, as well as questions of political consciousness and literary representation. By translating and performing close readings of many of these unknown pieces, the book offers a new portrait of the movement, its major concerns, and its mode of dialectical analysis, in part to challenge the misconception of proletarian literature as a crude instrument of propaganda.
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