Don Juan East/West
On the Problematics of Comparative Literature
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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