Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Ayako Kano

Abstract

The female gaze can be used by writers and readers to look at narratives from a perspective that sees women as subjects instead of objects. Applying a female gaze to discourses that have traditionally been male-dominated opens new avenues of interpretation that are empowering from a feminist perspective. In this dissertation, I use the murder mystery novels of the bestselling female author Kirino Natsuo and the graphic novels of a prolific four-woman artistic collective called CLAMP to demonstrate how writers are capable of applying a female gaze to the themes of their work and how readers can and have read their work from the perspectives allowed by a female gaze.

Kirino Natsuo presents a female perspective on such issues as prostitution, marriage, and equal employment laws in her novels, which are often based on sensationalist news stories. Meanwhile, CLAMP challenges the discourses surrounding the production and consumption of fictional women, especially the young female characters, or shojo, that have become iconic in Japanese popular culture. Likewise, the female consumers of popular media are able to view and interpret popular texts in such a way as to subjectify female characters and emphasize feminist themes. In addition, the erotic elements of a female gaze may be used to apply a subversive interpretation of the overt or implicit phallocentrism of mainstream media.

The male gaze should not be taken for granted in the study of literary texts and graphic novels, and an awareness of an active female gaze can change the ways in which we understand contemporary Japanese literature and popular culture. Female readers and writers can find enjoyment and create messages of feminist empowerment even in works with flawed and problematic representations of femininity. The female gaze thus acts as a mode of resistant reading that allows alternate methods of reading, viewing, and interpreting the female characters and the gendered themes and issues of a text, regardless of the gender of the creators or the gender of the reader.

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