Ero-Guro-Nansensu: Modernity and its Discontents in Taishō and Early Shōwa Japan
Ero-guro-nansensu, from the English words ero for “eroticism,” guro for “grotesque,” and nansensu for “nonsense” was a Japanese mass culture movement that encompassed literature, popular magazines, cinema, and criticism. It responded to feelings of alienation and anxiety that arose out of social change during the Taishō (1912-1926) and early Shōwa periods (1926-1989). While some elements of the genre, like detective fiction or psychological studies, were directly influenced by the West, ero-guro-nansensu as a whole has no direct equivalent outside of Japan. Thus, studying ero-guro-nansensu can reveal the anxieties of Japanese modernity shared globally while also showing the culturally specific ways writers and artists responded to them. This dissertation will argue that ero-guro-nansensu discourses looked for compensatory value in mass culture as a means of coping with feelings of anxiety and distress induced by the rapid modernization that the nation experienced in the first half of the twentieth century.