Ideologies and Authoritarian Discourse in Wartime Japan 1931-1945: Metaphor and Discursive Markers in the media and soldiers' personal writings

Date: 1 December 2017

Venue: Stadscampus - Building K, room 2.01 - Kleine Kauwenberg 14 - 2000 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 3:00 PM - 5:30 PM

PhD candidate: Marie Reetz

Principal investigator: Prof Jef Verschueren

Short description: Doctoraatsverdediging Marie Reetz (Taalkunde) - Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte


Under the rule of its Authoritarian and Militarist government during the 1930s until mid 1940s, Japan’s population is being mobilized as well as self-mobilizing through propaganda infused language. While Japan’s war of aggression is being portrayed as a “war of liberation” and independence led by a modern and progressive state, the Japanese are encouraged to suffer, fight or even die for the “Total War” their country wages throughout Asia.

My dissertation seeks to shed light on the specific language and discourse phenomena that seem to play a part in ideologically constructing language that naturalises (Althusser, Bourdieu) central themes of patriotism and war like “identity”, “sacrifice” and “death”. I understand the ideological mechanism to consist in presenting – in a socially and often politically meaningful way – a version of reality as THE reality.

Looking at government policies and soldiers’ writing, this work shows how language forms and constructions linked to the larger discourse context (Foucault’s archive) – metaphors, syntactic and semantic embeddedness, phraseologies (epistolary formulae) and genre – come together to create an impression of normalcy (effet d’évidence), naturalising Japaneseness and dying for Emperor and Country (okuni no tame).

Drawing on (French) Discourse Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis and Pragmatics, I develop my methodology with insights gleaned from works on Fascist and Totalitarian discourse, on ideology and language use and from reflections on the parallels between ideology and (grammatical, conceptual and rhetorical) metaphors. The empirical chapters present quantitative distributional analyses and qualitative analyses of the media, school and epistolary corpora, containing the two main daily newspapers Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun, high-school ethics textbooks and soldiers’ diaries and letters.

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