This dissertation aims to examine the manner in which the concept of autonomy (jiritsu) is treated in modern and contemporary Japanese literature. This examination will be performed by analysing the autonomous attitude of a contemporary Japanese writer Nakagami Kenji (1946–1992). This dissertation focuses on examining Nakagami Kenji’s ambivalent attitude towards his act of writing. We will explore the manner in which his act of writing appears to be a paradox between self-identification and the integration into the collective. Then, we will observe the possibility in which Nakagami’s ambivalent attitude is extended to cover Maruyama Masao’s relative definition of autonomy and Karatani Kōjin’s interpretation of Immanuel Kant’s notion of freedom and responsibility.
Nakagami’s attempt is certainly not confined to only his works. The notion of autonomy may be applied to perceive a similar thought that was represented by previous writers. We will also examine various never-ending autonomous attempts expressed by Sakaguchi Ango, Miyazawa Kenji and Nakahara Chūya. Moreover, we will analyse how Nakagami’s distrust of the modern Japanese language and his admiration of the body as an undeniable object are reflected in his major novels in detail and attempt to extend this observation into the works of the theatrical artists in the 1960s such as Betsuyaku Minoru, Kara Jūrō, Hijikata Tatsumi and Terayama Shūji and contemporary women writers such as Tsushima Yūko, Takamura Kaoru, Tawada Yōko and Yoshimoto Banana. These writers and artists struggled to establish their autonomous freedom as they encountered the conflict between their individual bodies that personifies their personal autonomy and the modern Japanese language that confines them in the fixed and submissive roles in present-day Japan.
In this dissertation, I would like to conclude that Nakagami Kenji’s ambivalent attitude towards his act of writing can be an eternal self-legislation, that is, his endless attempt to establish autonomous freedom, which evolves from the paradox between the individual (body) and the collective (language).