- マス・コミュニケーション研究 (ISSN:13411306)
- vol.89, pp.63-81, 2016
In this paper, we examine the role of literary taste among youth in Japan.Pierre Bourdieu's theory of taste assumes that individuals are ranked accordingto their taste from the most refined to the most vulgar. Reading novels appearsto be a perfect example of Bourdieu's theory, as reading is taught directly inschool. However, Bourdieu's theory seems to be at odds with the Japanese situation,where influential literary critics have witnessed the 'downfall' of onceesteemedliterature that, as they saw it, has now ceased to be relevant to societyand become merely entertainment. Even when the popularity of" light novels" and" cell phone novels" causedcontroversy in the 2000s regarding their quality due to the former's anime/manga-like characters and the latter's unconventional style of writing andexcessively sentimental plots, scholars and journalists countered the disparagingdiscourse on these supposedly "lowbrow" novels. Although Bourdieuassumes individuals to be taste-sensitive and taste to be a fundamental capitalin every field of cultural practice, for the case of novel reading in Japan, thisvery assumption must be called into question. Drawing from the 2010 Youth Culture and Communication Survey in Nerima(Tokyo), we explore whether literary taste is still relevant to the sense of distinctionamong young novel readers. We examine the difference between selfcategorizednovel hobbyists and non-hobbyist novel readers, and we testwhether what they read accounts for the gap between the two groups. The findings show that the types of novels are relevant to their self-categorization.In particular, those who read classical novels are more likely to regardreading novels as a hobby and those who read cell-phone novels are less likely.Against literary critics' skepticism about the cultural authority of literature inJapan, these findings indicate that even urban youth conform to the conventionalhierarchy of literary taste.