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Dissertation Project Yuqi Chen (Abstract)

Murakami Haruki and China: Towards the East Asian Cosmopolitan

(Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Evelyn Schulz)

Murakami Haruki (b.1949), who claimed himself as a Japanese writer as well as a citizen of the world has established himself as a best-selling author whose works have been translated into more than fifty languages. His unprecedented worldwide popularity was called the “Haruki Phenomenon” by Japanese media.

Murakami has been a controversial writer whose works are often criticized as bata-kusai (reeks of butter) and mukokuseki (nationality-less) due to the western settings and lack of cultural specificity. However, it is my concern that it is the very cosmopolitan nature of Murakami that brings him to the attention of a worldwide readership.

While studies in English on the discourse of cosmopolitanism continue apace, cosmopolitanism still seems to be a rather remote discipline for an analysis of Murakami’s works. Moreover, the relationship of Murakami and China since the Second World War until now, which should not be overlooked in view of both the indispensable image of China in his works and the particularly exceptional Haruki Phenomenon in China, however have received conspicuously scarce attention from existing studies.

To fill the academic research void, this thesis looks at the relationship of Murakami and China in the framework of cosmopolitanism, in which I argue that Murakami as a cultural mediator between Japan and China, which I term “East Asian cosmopolitan” promises meaningful attachments and allegiances beyond the nation-state boundaries in increasingly integrated East Asia.

The thesis is divided into 2 sections: 1) China in Murakami and 2) Murakami in China, with the aim of examining Murakami’s reception of China and the reception of Murakami in China respectively. For “China in Murakami”, the thesis conducts a close reading of Murakami’s selected novels, essays, travelogues, and non-literary works to depict how Murakami perceives China and Chinese people as an East Asian cosmopolitan. For “Murakami in China”, the thesis turns to The Haruki phenomenon and critics on Murakami in China since 1980s until today. In addition, the way in which Murakami and “Murakami’s Children”, cultural producers for whom Murakami's works have proved a powerful influence, embody “East Asian cosmopolitan” will be analyzed at length through a close reading of the works of “Murakami’s Children”.