Mad girls in the attic: Louisa May Alcott, Yoshiya Nobuko and the development of Shojo culture

Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase, Purdue University


The purpose of this study is to focus on girls' narratives which have rarely been discussed outside the category of juvenile literature. This study attempts to reevaluate them and treat them as part of female creativity, analyzing them in the light of feminism. This study is entitled “Mad Girls in the Attic” in order to suggest a new tradition of girls' writings branching from the established women's literary tradition described in The Mad Woman in the Attic. ^ This study has two goals; it follows how American girls' culture came to Japan and helped establish Japanese girls' culture, and it also examines the nature of girls' narratives, which is related to their authors' adolescent mentality. The first and second chapters are a comparative study of Louisa May Alcott and Yoshiya Nobuko, the forerunners of girls' story writing who were also feminists. Interestingly, they followed similar career paths and faced similar problems as popular writers; desiring to be acknowledged as serious writers, they struggled between literary aspiration and the desire for fame. By comparing their writings and the changes in their literary styles, this study examines what makes girls' stories unique and political. ^ The third chapter focuses on those stories by Yoshiya which were targeted at an adult audience. It shows how Yoshiya used the “immature” girls' mentality as her political weapon to confront patriarchal society. Chapter four addresses Kawabata Yasunari, a canonized male author and a popular writer of girls' stories. While revealing the gender differences between his narrative presentations and those of Yoshiya, this chapter discusses how the topic of “girl” is a significant element in Kawabata's mainstream literature. Chapter five shifts the focus to girls' culture of the postwar era. Dealing with girls' manga and popular literature written by young writers, it examines how their narratives embody the same girl's mentality as Alcott and Yoshiya expressed in their works. Girls' culture continue to be a source of inspiration for Japanese girls. ^




Major Professor: Eiji Sekine, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Asian|Women's Studies|Literature, American

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