Memoirs of a Geisha has sold and made millions for Arthur Golden since 1997. This is his first novel, and it has earned him worldwide acclaim. A feature film version directed by Steven Spielberg is in the works. The book is translated into more than twenty languages. This article uses the book and the legal controversy that ensued after its publication to ask, and hopefully answer, two questions: First, is the geisha tradition as described by Golden in his fictional biography a variant of sex trafficking and sexual slavery which, despite possible cultural justifications, should be abolished by law? Second, did Iwasaki's lawsuit have any merit? To answer these questions, this article will proceed in accordance with structuralist and post-structuralist literary critical traditions by looking first at the text itself and then its context, subtext, and post-text in order to explain the plaintiffs pre-text for suing. The article will analyze the narrative structures and style of the text; the legal and historic context of the novel; the legal issues hidden in the subtext which include sex trafficking, feminist legal theory, and the role of cultural relativism as a justification for the geisha tradition; the post-text which are the merits, if any, of Iwasaki's legal claims; and finally, the pre-text, or why the real geisha sued Arthur Golden and his publishers.
Copyright Infringement, Sex Trafficking, and Defamation in the Fictional Life of a Geisha,
Mich. J. Gender & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjgl/vol10/iss2/3