Between Men: Homosocial Desire in Abe Kazushige’s Early Fiction

Key information

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Russell Square: College Buildings
Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

About this event

Maria Roemer (Newcastle University)


Japanese writer Abe Kazushige’s fiction describes the worlds of men. All the same, research on the author has not analyzed his novels and short stories from a perspective of masculinities studies yet. This lecture closes this gap: I argue that Abe’s 1994 debut novel Amerika no yoru (Day by Night) destabilizes hegemonic notions of manliness by evoking homoerotic images. The novel’s protagonist Tadao is in a three-sided relationship with his male and female colleagues from film school Mutō and Tsuyumi. This three-sided relationship allows for reading it as an erotic triangle according to theorists Roland Barthes and Eve Kosofsky-Sedgwick. Correspondingly, Tadao claims to be in love with Tsuyumi. Yet, in actuality, his libidinal energy is directed at his male rival in courting Tsuyumi, Mutō. French theorist Roland Barthes explains that such libidinal preoccupations among competitors in erotic triangles are expressions of rivalry as pleasurable complicity. American scholar Eve Kosofosky-Sedgwick terms a similar obsession between two men, who compete over a woman, homosocial desire. Relating their theories to each other, I argue that Amerika no yoru shows how two people, who are opponents by definition of their positions within the triangle, form a delightful union by sharing a common topic of conversation. As a result, the alleged loved individual is reduced to a medium through which the desire of both competitors is routed towards each other.

The lecture locates Barthes’ definition of eroticized male rivalry within Eve Kosofky-Sedgwick’s queer theory and argues that both describe similar concepts. It then analyzes through which images Amerika no yoru invokes Tadao’s and Mutō’s delightful competition over Tsuyumi.

Speaker Biography

Maria Roemer is a Lecturer in Japanese at Newcastle University. Her research analyzes Japanese literature, film and criticism from a comparative perspective. She holds an M.A. in Comparative Literature and Japanese Studies from Free University Berlin. She obtained her Ph.D. from the Heidelberg Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies in 2019 with a dissertation on “Metafiction and Masculinities in Abe Kazushige’s 90s Fiction”. From 2007-2011 she was the co-founder and -director of “Asian Hot Shots Berlin: Festival for Film and Video Art”, for which she curated the Japanese programme.


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Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre

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