Ogawa Yōko and the Horrific Femininities of Daily Life


  • Grace En-Yi Ting University of Hong Kong




In Ogawa Yōko’s (b. 1962) writing from the late 1980’s and 1990’s, female narrators often revel in the fantastical beauty of youthful masculinities, while they themselves cannot escape the disgusting disorder of feminized domestic spaces. First, I read death and violence in kitchens depicted in the story collection Revenge (1998) to show how Ogawa rewrites this space associated with the housewife and her duties as one of horrific possibilities overturning idealized images of domesticity. Next, building on earlier readings of food, I argue that spectacles of sweetness—cakes, jam, and ice cream desserts—play a particularly crucial role in articulating female desire and violence, such as with the earlier works “Pregnancy Diary” (1991) and Sugar Time (1991). Returning to Revenge, I observe how “sweet” images appear in scenes of violence to outline how female homosocial gazes reflect a constant engagement with femininities seen in other women, particularly those marked by the transgression of anger and murderous desire. I end by considering ways in which Ogawa’s self-reflexive depiction of the woman writer in Revenge playfully problematizes the “mad” fantasies of women who write.

Author Biography

Grace En-Yi Ting, University of Hong Kong

Grace En-Yi Ting is Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). She specializes in queer/feminist approaches to Japanese literary and cultural studies, with an emphasis on women writers and girls’ culture. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled Minor Intimacies: Queerness, the Normative, and the Everyday in Contemporary Japan, examining femininities and queer potentialities within literary as well as subcultural representations of daily life in post-1980’s Japan. More broadly, her work deals with methodologies and forms of collaboration to situate Japanese texts and discourses within the broader contexts of queer Asian studies and Asian American studies. From 2018-2020, she is serving as co-chair of the Society for Queer Asian Studies (SQAS), an affiliate of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Before joining HKU, she taught at Oberlin College and was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) postdoctoral fellow at Waseda University.