A dialectic of distance: Emancipation in Kobo Abe's "The Woman in the Dunes"

Isaac Clarke Holyoak, Purdue University


This thesis presents a critical analysis of Japanese author Kōbō Abe’s novel, The Woman in the Dunes. It argues that Abe’s novel functions both as supplement and disruption to the Marxist tradition of scholarly thought. Theoretically and methodologically, this paper draws upon Marxist theory and employs a critical rhetorical orientation to provide three contributions. First, though rhetoricians have consistently argued that novels are appropriate for analysis, there are few who have been willing to engage this type of artifact. This analysis fills that gap. Second, this thesis contributes to the rhetorical cannon by drawing on Japanese discourses. Lastly, an analysis of The Woman in the Dunes contributes to political theories of emancipation and the Marxist conception of alienation by (a) articulating the rhetorical nature of emancipation and how it occurs intrapersonally and individually, as well as by (b) further illuminating the severity of alienation and its effect on collective wills to action. It ultimately demonstrates how emancipation can function in highly alienating conditions by suggesting that consciousness-raising is a rhetorical process that can be better understood through a dialectic of distance. ^




Robin P. Clair, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, Asian|Speech Communication

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