The Pillow Book by Sei Shônagon, Empress Sadako's lady in waiting from about 993-1000, offers rich detail about the meaning and power of dress during the Heian period [794-1185]. Throughout Yone Noguchi's novel The American Diary of a Japanese Girl (1902), Morning Glory, a newly arrived Japanese immigrant to the U.S., experiments with a multitude of different identities through clothes. Both narratives appropriate (cross-) dressing as a means of overcoming gender, cultural, and class borders. Shônagon and Noguchi engage in “authorial crossdressing” to inhabit a social, cultural, and national space onto which they only have a precarious hold. It is especially the portrayal of what Marjorie Garber has delineated as a “category crisis” that links Japanese medieval writing and early fictional accounts by Japanese American authors. This article demonstrates that cross-dressing originates in moments of personal crisis and that its practice is sustained by the anxiety of cultural dislocation. The parallel identified between The Pillow Book and The American Diary—both texts largely ignored by academia—promises to clarify further early Japanese immigrants' experimentation with their bodies, citizenship, and other markers of identity to create a Japanese American subjectivity.
Dressed to Cross: Narratives of Resistance and Integration in Sei Shônagon's The Pillow Book and Yone Noguchi's The American Diary of a Japanese Girl
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Ina Christiane Seethaler; Dressed to Cross: Narratives of Resistance and Integration in Sei Shônagon's The Pillow Book and Yone Noguchi's The American Diary of a Japanese Girl. Ethnic Studies Review 1 January 2011; 34 (1): 185–198. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/esr.2011.34.1.185
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