On Friendship and the Queering of American and Japanese Studies
Takemura Kazuko (1954–2011) was a key figure in feminist studies and queer theory between Japan and the U.S. In her late essay, “The Renaissance of a Discipline,” she asks fundamental questions about what it means to do queer or feminist work with a focus on a culture other than one’s own. Herself a Japanese Americanist in a field born from Japan’s “homosocial” desire to emulate and come closer to the British Empire, Takemura looks to Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916), the ambivalent founding father of her field, as a model for a new kind of comparative literature described by Gayatri Spivak (1942– ) in her book, Death of a Discipline. By drawing connections between Sōseki and F. O. Mathiessen (1902–1950), the closeted gay man who founded American Studies with his 1941 book American Renaissance, the essay examines the foundations of both American and Japanese Studies, and imagines their queer rebirth.
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