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Dances with Sheep: The Quest for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami HarukiMatthew Carl Strecher 2002 Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
Strecher's methodology is both historical and cultural as he utilizes four distinct yet interwoven approaches to analyze Murakami's major works: the writer's "formulaic" structure with serious themes; his play with magical realism; the intense psychological underpinnings of his literary landscape; and his critique of language and its capacity to represent realities, past and present. Dances with Sheep links each of these approaches with Murakami's critical focus on the fate of individual identity in contemporary Japan. The result is that the simplicity of the Murakami hero, marked by lethargy and nostalgia, emerges as emblematic of contemporary humankind, bereft of identity, direction, and meaning. Murakami's fiction is reconstructed in Dances with Sheep as a warning against the dehumanizing effects of late-model capitalism, the homogenization of the marketplace, and the elimination of effective counterculture in Japan.