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Despite their somewhat divergent political philosophies (Mishima being a die-hard Japanese nationalist, Genet being a radical anti-imperialist activist) and the cultural divide which separates the two, both Yukio Mishima and Jean Genet stand as two of the most celebrated authors in the canon of queer literature and two of the very earliest authors to achieve global success while writing works that were openly and unabashedly queer. The respective oeuvres of both authors are united not just by their shared historical period – the 1940s-60s – but by a shared theme: the cultural significance of masculinity and power in relation to the societies of their respective youths (the iconography of chivalry and “noble” violence in the case of Mishima, and the pulp fiction iconography of a glamorized criminal underworld in Genet’s case). Both authors are also known for blurring of the lines between autobiography and fiction in their work, which serves in its own way as a queering of both novel and autobiographical form. Of each author’s oeuvre, the works which I think best demonstrates their shared subversive approach to the bildungsroman are Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask and Genet’s The Thief’s Journal. In this research project, I will examine these two texts and propose that in addition to blurring the lines between the true-to-life and the imaginary, Mishima and Genet deconstruct cultural notions of masculinity and reconstruct them in their own distinctly personal - and distinctly queer - images. Secondary sources will include literary and queer scholarship regarding the life and work of the two authors to examine the personal significance of the archetypes they choose to subvert/invert/etc., and to provide context for how their writings were interpreted both in their time and after their time.
Walker, Daniel, "Queering the Bildungsroman in Yukio Mishima's "Confessions of a Mask" and Jean Genet's "The Thief's Journal"" (2019). English Summer Fellows. 19.