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Kazuo Ishiguro and Genre: Interpreting Complicity and Perpetrator Trauma through the Künstlerroman and Portal-Quest Fantasy

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posted on 2022-08-25, 01:24 authored by Sebastian SparrevohnSebastian Sparrevohn

This thesis argues that Kazuo Ishiguro uses different genres to respond to the shifting cultural moments throughout his career. Ishiguro has maintained a consistent development of the themes of memory, complicity, and trauma in each of his novels. Where he has differed in his approach is in his instrumental use of different genres and settings to facilitate this thematic project. His second novel, An Artist of the Floating World (1986), draws heavily on the Künstlerroman genre through its narrator, the retired and disgraced painter Masuji Ono. Ishiguro wrote a novel concerned with the political nature of art during a cultural moment when the role of art in politics was being re-evaluated, particularly by artists and performers who supported the Labour Party and opposed Margaret Thatcher in the lead up to the 1987 British election. His recent novel, The Buried Giant (2015), uses the genre of contemporary fantasy to allegorise the growing political divisiveness that arose with the resurgent nationalism of the Brexit campaign. Ishiguro draws on fantasy and the Arthurian myth to puncture the Little England xenophobic rhetoric that he identifies with the nationalism advocated by the Leave campaign. Though separated by 29 years, these novels chart Ishiguro’s ongoing concern with political complicity and perpetrator trauma, as well as his movement towards speculative genres as the most effective means to address these to his international audience.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Complicity and Perpetrator Trauma in Ishiguro’s Künstlerroman -- Chapter 2. Revisiting Perpetrator Trauma through the Portal-Quest -- Conclusion. Ishiguro’s Speculative Turn -- Reference List

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Communications, Creative Ats, Languages and Literature, 2020

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Communications, Creative Ats, Languages and Literature

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Louise D’Arcens


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




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