Images du Japon dans la littérature française (1970-2015): un goût pour le quotidien

Translated title of the contribution: Images of Japan in French Literature (1970-2015): a Taste for the Everyday

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This article examines the fascination for the everyday that characterizes the work of many French and Francophone writers, film-makers and artists interested in Japan – and focusing on this country and its refined art and culture in their productions – since the Second World War, especially after 1970. This fascination coincided with – and partly contributed to – the interdisciplinary development of ‘everyday studies’ in France and other Western countries, with the pioneering work of major intellectuals such as Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau and Michel Foucault. Inscribed in this general context, the neo and post-Japoniste authors’ tendency to emphasise banal and even trivial aspects of everyday life in Japan in their respective works also corresponded to a new image associated with the country since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the Osaka Universal Exposition (in 1970), which symbolised its renaissance and revealed its technological achievements to the world.
It is with this background that writers such as Roland Barthes (in L’Empire des signes, 1970) and more recently Jean-Philippe Toussaint (Autoportrait (à l'étranger), 2000) or Jacques Roubaud (Tokyo infra-ordinaire, 2003) have shifted the exoticist emphasis on the ‘extra-ordinary’ and the incongruous that pertained to 19th- and early 20th-century Japonisme, towards an unexotic representation of the ‘infra-ordinary’ dimension of everyday experience in Japan – this country being precisely characterized by a specific aesthetic sensibility manifesting itself in traditional art forms such as ukiyoe (woodprints) or haiku poems, but also in various daily practices (cooking, bathing, gift wrapping, etc.). If this post-war Japoniste trend can be easily explained in the context of post-colonialism (and its critic of orientalist discourse), aesthetic post-modernism and global mass-tourism that marked a demise of the exotic, we can wonder to what extent it constitutes a renewal or an actual repudiation of the Western ‘aestheticentric’ tradition in relation to Japan and the Orient (Kōjin Karatani).
Translated title of the contributionImages of Japan in French Literature (1970-2015): a Taste for the Everyday
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)109–117
Number of pages9
JournalContemporary French and Francophone Studies
Issue number1
Early online date11 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2017


  • French literature
  • Japonisme
  • Franco-Japanese intercultural exchanges
  • everyday studies


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