Cover image for Great mirrors shattered : homosexuality, orientalism, and Japan
Great mirrors shattered : homosexuality, orientalism, and Japan
Treat, John Whittier.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 241 pages ; 25 cm.
Format :


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HQ76.3.J3 T74 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In 1986, John Whittier Treat went to Tokyo on sabbatical to write a book about the literature of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But once there, he found himself immersed in the emergence of new kind of Holocaust, AIDS, and the sweeping denial, hysteria, and projection with which Japan--a place where"there are no homosexuals"--tried to insulate itself from the epidemic. Great Mirrors Shattered is a compelling memoir of a gay man thoroughly familiar with the Japanese homosexual underground, a man anxious for his own health and unsure of the relationship he has left behind in the US. It is also a highly self-aware analysis of Orientalism, which the author definesas "the Western study of everywhere else," and an exploration of how sexual identity conditions knowledge across cultures. Jump-cutting between such texts as Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, Pierre Loti's Madame Chrysantheme, Saikaku's The Great Mirror of Male Love, the writings of Roland Barthes,newspaper headlines, and his own experiences during a previous stay in Japan, Treat creates an intricately textured account of the problems inherent in how we "know" another culture. The questions of self and other, difference and sameness, time past and time present, America and Japan, are exploredhere with rare intelligence and unabashedly personal disclosure. Great Mirrors Shattered gives us a brilliantly fractured reflection of a year in one man's life, and the first study of the sexual politics behind what the West has come to know not just about Japan, but any place Europeans and Americans have gone to escape the confining rules of their homecultures.

Author Notes

John Whittier Treat is Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

In the fall of 1986, the full impact of AIDS struck in Japan. At that time, Treat (Asian languages and literatures, Univ. of Washington) was on sabbatical in Nakano. Superficially, this is a month-by-month memoir of a year in the life of a brilliantly observant if somewhat solipsistic gay man in an alien culture. Beneath this is one of the richest and most original examinations of Asian homosexual culture in recent memory. Treat presents an intensely detailed examination of the devastating effect of AIDSÄa "foreign" virusÄand cultural imperialism on conservative, insular Japanese society. He combines elements of postmodernism and journalism, deftly interlacing personal details with scholarly and pop-culture references and streaks of erotica, while shifting between layers of personal and historical time and place. Highly recommended for gay studies, human sexuality and Asian studies collections in all libraries.ÄRichard Violette, Special Libraries Cataloguing, Victoria, BC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Certain Details: Septemberp. 3
Stray Dogs, Ready Cash: Octoberp. 19
New Words: Novemberp. 35
The Common Good: Decemberp. 53
The Theory of the Japanese People: Januaryp. 73
Morals Business: Februaryp. 93
The Social Situation: Marchp. 111
Special Friends: Aprilp. 127
A Play of Muscles: Mayp. 145
Syntax, Et Cetera: Junep. 163
M. Andrew: Julyp. 177
The Great Sympathetic Paradox: Augustp. 195
My Tokyo: Septemberp. 215
Notesp. 231