Date of Graduation


Document Type



One conspicuous trend during the world economy's shift to the Pacific Rim in the late twentieth century has been the increased reciprocal inspiration and mimetic rivalry between American and East Asian cultures. For much of the past century, for example, the Japanese have been stereotyped as cultural copycats, when transpacific imitating actually has been mutual: as East Asians have looked to the West for models of development and the imagination, so have Americans looked to the Far East---as even representing the future, according to novelist William Gibson. Americans have drawn inspiration from Eastern aesthetics, while East Asians have copied Western technological models, so well even as to out-rival their model---evident in the intense competition between the United States and Japan in the electronics and car industries in the 1980s. In the digital era, the convergence of what philosopher Vilem Flusser calls the "two peaks of civilization" (East and West) has accelerated and revealed, especially in China's race to catch up with its Pacific competitors, how these cross-Pacific cultures are becoming the sort of homogeneous high-tech societies Gibson calls "mirror worlds." But although mutual transpacific copying in architecture, cinema, fashion, design, music, television, technology---and literature---reminds the world of the essential role imitating plays in creative and aesthetic human endeavors, these phenomena in their rivalrous aspects---in the resurgence of nationalism, the disavowal of foreign influence, and the denial of imitation---show more crucially how mimesis affects human behaviors of acquisition: transpacific imitating highlights how desire itself depends on imitation and thus often leads to conflict. Since mimesis also is a literary, aesthetic preserve, the tensions of transpacific rivalry and the challenges of mimetic desire naturally register most vividly in literature of these West and East cultures, and the case studies in this work are of Japanese and western American poetry and fiction. Following an introduction to the mimetic theory advanced by Rene Girard and a survey of recent transpacific competition, the dissertation includes analyses of literary works by Don DeLillo, Yukio Mishima, Junichiro Tanizaki, Kenzaburo Oe, Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Richard Brautigan, Haruki Murakami, and William Gibson. I conclude by emphasizing how private, internal psychological conflicts and international, cross-cultural rivalries depend on mutual imitating and how important it is we come to understand the full implications of our technologically-enhanced capacity to imitate one another---whether in conflict or for positive change.