Victorian Maids and Neo-Victorian Labour in Kaoru Mori’s Emma: A Victorian Romance

Elizabeth HO

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

Abstract

While neo-Victorian graphic narratives have proliferated in the West (especially in Britain and the U.S.), Japan has emerged as an equally robust site of neo-Victorian production. This paper examines the persistence of the British nineteenth century in Japanese manga and explores the question: what role does the Victorian past play in the Japanese present? I focus on Kaoru Mori’s popular manga series: Emma: A Victorian Romance (2002-2006). Set in the 1880s and drawing on a variety of Victorian tropes and narratives, Mori chronicles the story of Emma, a young maid from London, who enters into an upstairs/downstairs romance with William Jones, the eldest son of an industrialist family. In this article, I explore the curious conflation of the work of the female manga artist (as depicted by Mori’s autobiographical cartoons included with each volume of the series) with that of the Victorian maid. I argue that the reappearance of the Victorian maid in Emma and the ‘maid café’ phenomenon forms a serious engagement with Japan’s (post)feminist politics perceived to be haunted by gender ideologies from its Meiji-era past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-63
Number of pages24
JournalNeo-Victorian Studies
Volume6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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Keywords

  • Emma A Victorian Romance
  • Japan
  • Kaoru Mori
  • domestic
  • labour
  • maid
  • manga
  • upstairs/downstairs romance

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