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Japanese girls’ culture, or shōjo culture, emerged in the Meiji period (1868-1912), catalysed largely by the introduction of middle and high school education for girls. Since then, shōjo culture and its literary works have provided girls with a space for imagination, companionship, and catharsis. Among one of the earliest and most commercially successful girls’ authors is Yoshiya Nobuko (1886-1973). Around the early 1900s when Yoshiya was writing, “S” culture was becoming increasingly pervasive in the secluded environments of girls’ schools and colleges. S or “S-relationships” (S-kankei) were essentially romantic friendships or intimate relationships between teenage girls, often upper and lower classmates or sometimes girls and young teachers. Yoshiya’s works frequently featured S-relationships, and associated imagery like flowers and letters, in turn, also solidifying these elements as conventions. Although one hundred years have passed since Yoshiya began writing, the impact of her writing, and particularly of her S-stories and conventions, has persisted within shōjo culture, and been shifted and transformed by subsequent authors. This research aims to investigate the origins, transformations, and significance of S in shōjo culture by looking at one of Yoshiya’s short stories, Yellow Rose (Kibara) (1923), as well as three subsequent texts: Ikeda Riyoko’s manga Dear Brother (Onīsama e) (1975), Yoshimoto Banana’s novella Kitchen (Kicchin) (1987), and Matsuda Aoko’s short story Quite A Catch (Hina-chan) from her interlinked story collection Where the Wild Ladies Are (Obachan tachi no iru tokoro) (2016).

About the presenter

Saffron Nyx is currently completing her Honours degree in Japanese, having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2021 with an extended major in advanced Japanese and a minor in Linguistics. Her honours research focuses on Japanese girls’ literature and its explorations of gender and queerness.

About Studies in Culture Seminar Series

Through the scholarly analysis of many different kinds of cultural products, texts and phenomena, Studies in Culture brings together researchers who seek to understand how the world is understood differently by people coming from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Researchers in this cluster work on literature, film, music, theatre, the visual arts, intangible heritage, testimonies and historical narratives.

Research in Studies in Culture within the School centres around four broad sub-themes of Heritage, memory and trauma studies; Intellectual and cultural history; Literature; and Film and visual cultures.

To view more on the research and interests of the Studies in Culture cluster, please click here.


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