In 1998 Shono Yoriko, an acclaimed writer whose work is most often described as science fiction or avant-pop, launched what she hoped would be the third public debate on “pure-literature.” The growing sentiment that the Akutagawa Prize for serious literature should be merged with the Naoki Prize for popular literature, and the mass media’s repeated criticism of serious literature’s poor sales, had Shono concerned that the space for critically engaged fiction was being eroded by the spread of market-principles into all areas of cultural production. The repressive measures she met with in the course of her stalled debate resulted in Shono’s heightened awareness of the myriad pressures working to secure a neo-liberal colonization of literature.
The “fantastic criticism” that Shono has since written offers an interesting axis upon which to view political positioning, whereby “liberal” and “conservative” distinctions are supplanted by the ability, or lack thereof, to comprehend multiple value systems. My paper presents Shono’s three-pronged critique of neo-liberalism – which identifies the Lolita- complex, “for-profit literature,” and the acceptance of a specifically modern notion of self, as the operative principles – and explores the potential of Shono’s praxis to generate an imagination strong enough to counter the increasingly commonsensical notion that the market is the sole authentic arbiter of value.
Robin Tierney is a doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa in the department of cinema and comparative literature. She is currently at the University of Tokyo, grace of a Fulbright grant.