My country “is now wholly given over to a d—d mob of scribbling women,” goes one of the most frequently quoted gender-related adages. Japanologists might be tempted to attribute this uncourtly utterance to a learned nobleman of Heian Japan (794–1185) embittered by the outpouring of vernacular narratives from women's writing brushes that were eclipsing male endeavors to emulate Chinese classics, or to an exasperated modern Japanese novelist in reference to the neo-Heian phenomenon, namely, the renaissance of women's literature in postwar Japan. Actually it was Nathaniel Hawthorne (1855:141) who made the now infamous sexist remark in chagrin at American women who were churning out best-sellers in force. Thereafter, this phenomenon abated for a full century, but since the 1960s, Western women writers have made a glorious resurgence, marked by unprecedented degrees of output and worldwide market domination in a genre known as the romance fiction. The title of the first romance series and the name of its publisher, Harlequin, has become something like a generic term with multiple signification.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.