Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

A (Not So) Personal Matter

Understanding Disability in Kenzaburō Ōe’s Early Novels

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2019), 13, (4), 429–443.


The article considers three of Kenzaburō Ōe’s early novels and their representations of disability. Scholarship about A Personal Matter (Kojinteki na Taiken, 1964, trans. 1969), “Aghwee the Sky Monster” (“Sora no Kaibutsu Aghwee,” 1964, trans. 1977), and “Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness” (“Warera no Kyoki wo Ikinobiru Michi wo Oshieyo,” 1969, trans. 1977) has often emphasized their autobiographical aspects, principally the relationship between the nondisabled father and his disabled son. While it is true that the birth of Ōe’s disabled child, Hikari, in 1963, had a defining impact on his writing, the article widens the relevance of disability representation in these narratives to include consideration of the social, cultural, legal, and eugenic frameworks that construct negative attitudes about disability in Japan. The argument is that attitudes about disability in these narratives are more than a personal matter; in fact, their discussions of infanticide, monstrosity, and care reflect both the historically marginal status of disabled people in Japan and policies that sought to eliminate them from the family and body politic.

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Author details

Shek-Noble, Liz

Shek-Noble, Liz