Don Juan East/West

On the Problematics of Comparative Literature

By Takayuki Yokota-Murakami

Subjects: Comparative Literature
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791436660, 226 pages, July 1998
Hardcover : 9780791436653, 226 pages, July 1998

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Table of contents




Chapter 1. Problematizing Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature as a Discourse of Identification

Problems of Transcivilizational Comparison of Don Juans

The "Metaphysics" of Comparativism

Chapter 2. The Introduction of "Love" into Modern Japan

The New Concept of Romantic Love

Creation of the Signifier Ren'ai

The "Meaning" of Love

Sign and Reality

The Comparative Frame of Don Juan as a "Lover"

Chapter 3. The Emergence of Don Juanism

The Erasure of the Don Juan Theme in Early Modern Japan

The Making of "Lust"

Iro-otoko as a Lustful Man Enters

Chapter 4. Sexuality as a Historical Construct

Sexuality as a "Natural" Fact

Ogai's Vita Sexualis in the Context of Naturalism

Sexuality as a "Root" of Human Nature

The Emergence of a Sexual Life

Don Juan as a Sexual Pervert Enters

Chapter 5. Politics of Comparative Literature

"Love" and Its Connection with Humanism, Liberal Democracy, and Universalism

Universalism as Disguised Eurocentrism

Comparative Literature as a Universalist Discipline

Comparative Literature as a Marshall Plan

Conclusion: The Violence of Comparison




An essential guide for those who seek to reconsider the theoretical problems of (trans-civilizational) comparative literature, those who are interested in the literary and cultural history of modern East Asian countries, and those with a general interest in issues of sexuality.


From its early proponents via Rene Etiemble and Claudio Guillen to Jonathan Culler, comparative literature has always been viewed, with much hope, as a promising and effective means to break through the chauvinism of national literature studies and to promote international understanding. Don Juan East/West challenges this notion. Taking the comparison of the Western Don Juan and Eastern (mainly Japanese) "Don Juan" as a point of reference, the author convincingly argues that comparative literature has been a means of subsuming non-Western cultural tenets under the rubric of the Western paradigm. Comparativism has been used to redefine Japanese "libertines" so that they conform to the sexual ideology that has substantiated Don Juanism. To demonstrate this, the author combines genealogical and semiotic approaches and treats topics as varied as a reexamination of the theories of Saussure, Whorf, Searle, and Derrida; a historical description of the introduction of Western romantic love and sexological discourse to modern Japan; the conceptual problems foregrounding Don Juanism and its relationship to homosexuality; an analysis of sexual ideologies through examples taken from the Japanese translation of Russian literature; and the relevance of politics (Taisho democracy, the Marshall Plan, the reemergence of Japanese militarism, etc.) to comparative scholarship.

Takayuki Yokota-Murakami is Associate Professor in the Department of Russian, Faculty of Language Culture, at Osaka University.


"Although he denounces the hegemonic appropriation of cultural diversity by the West, Yokota-Murakami essentially tries to adjust the status of disadvantaged cultures to an equipoise with that of any dominant culture, not necessarily of the Western culture.

"Yokota-Murakami uses the motif of Don Juan in the recent history of Japanese sexuality to problematize the predominant approach of comparative literature, which he in turn aims at questioning a basic premise for conceiving of the world beyond simple East/West dichotomy. This book could be one of the landmark studies to which many people would refer when they position themselves in discussing multicultural issues." -- Masaki Mori, University of Georgia