New Publication by MLL Faculty Member
Susan Westhafer Furukawa, Associate Professor of Japanese and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures published her book The Afterlife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi: Historical Fiction and Popular Culture in Japan (Harvard, 2022) in March. In celebration of this achievement Beloit faculty and staff gathered for a book launch and signing party.
Popular representations of the past are everywhere in Japan, from cell phone charms, to manga, to television dramas, to video games, to young women dressed as their favorite historical figures hanging out in the hip Harajuku district. But, how does this mass consumption of the past impact the way consumers think about history and what it means to be Japanese? This is a question that has has interested Furukawa since her undergraduate years at DePauw University in Greencastle, IN.
In The Afterlife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Furukawa seeks to answer this question by looking at the case of the sixteenth-century samurai Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) and analyzing how twentieth and twenty-first-century representations of him have been mobilized in specific ways at specific moments in time. The multiple fictionalized histories of Hideyoshi published as serial novels and novellas before, during, and immediately after World War II reflect the complicated yet inextricable ties between nation-building and popular historical fiction in Japan and demonstrate how imaginative re-presentations of Japan’s past have been used by various actors throughout the modern era. At the same time, as Japan’s earliest aggressor in East Asia (with invasions of the Korean peninsula in 1592 and 1597), in many ways Hideyoshi has become a metonym for the complicated relationship between Japan and other East Asian nations. This study of how and why his image has persisted and shifted in popular culture, therefore, is also the story of Japan’s shifting postwar identity.
Furukawa explains, “This book explores what it is about the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi that makes it so resilient and relevant. It’s a story about Japan’s past, but it very much continues to be relevant today.”
You can buy The Afterlife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi anywhere that books are sold.