Murakami Haruki and the search for self-therapy
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis offers a reading of the first eleven novels of popular Japanese novelist Murakami Haruki, as well as a selected number of his short-stories and non-fictional works, as an evolving therapeutic discourse. In short, it is a response to Murakami's own claim to have started writing fiction as a means of self-therapy. Murakami, I will argue, is primarily responding to existential anxieties that have been magnified by conditions of cultural decline in late-capitalist Japan. His resulting therapeutic discourse shares interesting parallels with certain psychoanalytic theories of the twentieth century. Previous psychoanalytic readings of Murakami's work have tended to take either the writings of Carl Jung or Jacques Lacan as their starting point. This thesis will argue, however, that both theoretical frameworks are needed if one is to truly understand where Murakami is coming from. This kind of therapeutic reading might seem to justify those critics who see only the escapist elements in Murakami's fiction and who fault him for failing to engage fully with the important political and social issues of his day. In fact, a therapeutic reading, I will argue, is the best way to see how closely related Murakami's search for self-therapy and his growing search for commitment really are.