The most recent issue of Monumenta Nipponica contains a detailed and carefully written review of my book Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Japanese Modernist Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). The review was by Michelle Mason, an associate professor of Japanese literature at University of Maryland. She writes:
Angles convincingly argues that despite occasional borrowing from and homage to Edo-period notions of nanshoku (male-male sexuality), these three artists [discussed in the book, namely MURAYAMA Kaita, 村山槐多 EDOGAWA Ranpo 江戸川乱歩, and INAGAKI Taruho 稲垣足穂] were very much products of their particular historical moment. Specifically, amid the ascendency of heteronormative models of sexuality and an ever-increasing pathologization of male-male attraction and eroticism, they grappled and experimented with, queered, and challenged the aesthetic, medico-scientific, and social trends of their day. One strength of this study is that the lives and textual productions of the men it investigates are richly contextualized within Japanese and Western literary movements, dominant and popular sexological discourses, and trends in print and visual culture. The work also presents an assortment of imported and indigenous terminology and associations that intersect and transform in novel ways to configure modern Japanese conceptualizations of beautiful boys, male-male eroticism, and modern aesthetics…. Anyone reading to the end is rewarded with a rich rendering of an extremely important historical and cultural inheritance, which, as Angles compellingly argues, profoundly informs and inspires current Japanese understanding of male-male desire.
Click here for the entire review.
Click here to read about the book on Amazon.
The online journal Transformative Works and Cultures just ran a special issue about transnational fandoms and boy’s love manga. In it was a review of my book by Emerald King (a name that itself sounds like it is right out of a boy’s love manga). Here is the link. In one place, the reviewer writes,
Writing the Love of Boys is an engaging and challenging text that encourages readers to interrogate their understanding of boys’ love narratives in Japan as more than just a current popular cultural trend. The book is of interest not only to scholars of boys’ love narratives and associated bishōnen culture, but also to students of Taishō modernism and gender studies.
A big section from the introduction of my book Writing the Love of Boys, about the ways that a key group of early twentieth-century Japanese authors helped re-invent the language used in Japan to talk about love between men, is on Google Books.
The beautiful cover image is a painting called “Portrait of Two Boys” 二人少年図 painted in 1914 by the painter and poet MURAYAMA Kaita 村山槐多, one of the major figures that I talk about in this book. Other figures that feature heavily in this book are the mystery writer EDOGAWA Ranpo 江戸川乱歩 and the modernist innovator INAGAKI Taruho 稲垣足穂.
Also, click here to see the book on amazon.com.
Portrait of Two Boys 二少年図(1914)
MURAYAMA Kaita 村山槐多
(Collection of the Setagaya Literary Museum 世田谷文学館）
Murayama Kaita (1896-1919) was one of the most compelling figures of early twentieth-century Japanese art and letters. Before he died from tuberculosis at the premature age of twenty-two, he wrote a great deal of impassioned love poetry, much of which was inspired by his desire for a fellow schoolboy in Kyoto.
Kaita was also a painter and attended, against his father’s wishes, the Japan Art Institute 日本美術院 beginning in 1914. His paintings show a strikingly individualistic style. They draw upon early European modernism, especially the visual language of expressionism, in order to treat Japanese themes.
I’ve written a book about homoeroticism in early twentieth-century Japanese literature, and it is partially about Kaita. The title will be Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Modern Japanese Literature (University of Minnesota Press, scheduled for publication in 2011). The editors and I are in the stage of talking about cover designs, and just now, I sent the editors my suggestion that we use this wonderful portrait painted in 1914 for the cover. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they and the designer like this painting!
Incidentally, the famous mystery novelist Edogawa Ranpo 江戸川乱歩 loved Kaita’s work and this painting in particular. He bought it in the 1930s and hung it in his studio. For years, it hung right across from the desk where he worked every day.