Monday, July 21, 2014

Study Guide: Izumi Kyōka’s “The Saint of Mount Kōya” (Kōya hijiri; 1900)


Study Guide: Izumi Kyōka’s “The Saint of Mount Kōya” (Kōya hijiri; 1900)[1]

Izumi Kyōka 泉鏡花 (1873-1939): Novelist born in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. A disciple of Ozaki Kōyō, Kyōka made his debut as a writer of the socially oriented “problem novels” (kannen shōsetsu) Gekashitsu (The Operating Room, 1895) and Yakō junsa (Night Patrolman, 1895), but his true forte was the creation of a romantic (and melodramatic) world of fantasy described in a densely imagistic style. Works in this vein include Teriha kyōgen (The Teriha Troupe, 1896), Kōya hijiri (The Kōya Saint, 1900), Uta andon (Song of the Troubadour, 1910), and Mayukakushi no rei (The Ghost with Hidden Eyebrows, 1924). (Source: (Click here for original texts.)

Study Questions

1. Discuss Narrator 1. What is his function in the narrative?

2. Discuss the itinerant priest Shūchō (the “saint of Mt. Kōya”). Where does Narrator 1 first meet him? Where do they stay together? How is he different from most priests?

3. Describe the frame-story structure. Note the frequent interruptions in the frame story.

4. Describe the seedy medicine peddler from Toyama. What provocative comment does he make to Shūchō? What fate does he ultimately meet?

5. Summarize Shūchō’s story (pp. 5-33: his encounter with seedy medicine peddler; his decision to follow him down dangerous narrow road; the insects/snakes/caterpillars/bird eggs/leeches he encounters along the way; the hut; woman; the bathing scene; the dinner scene; his feelings for the woman; his crisis of faith; etc.).

6. Discuss the idiot. Describe his relationship with the woman.

7. A weary traveler from the city descends into the provinces and stumbles upon a lone hut in the middle of a forest with a beautiful/mysterious/elegant woman in it—where have we seen this basic storyline before? How is this story similar/different from these other stories? Is this story also didactic? Why is this basic story structure so common?

8. Discuss the woman (her personality/cravings/situation/powers/etc.). What multiple female archetypes is she a combination of? Explain.

9. Discuss the nude bathing scene. Why do the animals (toads, bats, rodent-monkeys, etc.) gather around as she, naked, washes the naked Shūchō?

10. Discuss the representations of nature in the work. What kind of nature are we dealing with here? How is nature contrasted with culture? Which is privileged?

11. Discuss the bestiality scene. The horse—Old Blue—is the present manifestation of whom? How/why was he transformed into a horse?

12. Why do the animals (sheep, birds, squirrels, cows, etc.) gather at night once the woman, Shūchō, and the idiot go to bed? How does Shūchō quiet them down?

13. Discuss the old man. Summarize the story he tells Shūchō in Episode 26. Is his story about the woman believable?

14. Discuss the ending. Did Shūchō make the right choice? What effect does his story have on Narrator 1?

Place Names

Fill in as you read….

1. Hida 飛騨(国): Today northern Gifu prefecture.
2. Shinshū信州 (also 信濃国): Today Nagano prefecture; where the main road leads.
3. Tsuruga敦賀: city in Wakasa region, present-day Fukui prefecture; where Narrator 1 and Narrator 2 spend the night.
4. Kakegawa:               5. Shimbashi Station:
6. Eiheiji: Zen monastery in …
7. Wakasa Region: Present day Fukui prefecture; Narrator 1’s hometown.
8. Mount Kōya:              9. Shizugatake:             10. Lake Biwa:
11. Rikuminji Temple: Temple to which Shūcho belongs.
12. Tsuji: village in ….        13. Matsumoto: village in …. 
14. Rendaiji Temple in Mino:   16. [add to list as you read …]

[1] Translated by Stephen Kohl in The Saint of Mt. Koya and The Song of the Troubadour (Kanazawa, Takakuwa bijutsu insatsu, 1990). A more recent translation is by Charles Inouye, included in his Japanese Gothic Tales (University of Hawai’i Press, 1996).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mizoguchi Kenji’s Sanshō the Bailiff (1954; w/ English subtitles)

*Click here for the study guide (15 Things to Consider While Watching Mizoguchi Kenji’s Sanshō the Bailiff).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Takahashi Gen’ichirō on Youtube! "Demon Beasts" (Kichiku 鬼畜, 2002, translated by me)

“Demon Beasts” (Kichiku 鬼畜, 2002) by Takahashi Gen’ichirō, translated by Ryan Morrison, read by Yakitome.

*Purchase my translation of the story in Volume 4 of Monkey Business! Purchase the original story here!

*For the official Beholdmyswarthyface study guide for the story, click here.

Furukawa Hideo on Youtube! “Now There Is Neither Purity Nor Defilement” (2012; translated by me)

*To purchase the story in the original, click here; to purchase my translation of the story in the 2013 issue of Monkey Business, click here.

*For the official Beholdmyswarthyface study guide for the story, click here.

*The following was translated by me, and read by Yakitome Voice of the Web.

Furukawa Hideo's "Now There Is Neither Purity Nor Defilement" (2012), translated by Ryan Morrison (Part 1)

Furukawa Hideo's "Now There Is Neither Purity Nor Defilement" (2012), translated by Ryan Morrison (Part 2)

Study Guide: Furukawa Hideo’s “Now There Is Neither Purity Nor Defilement” (2012)

*To purchase the story in the original, click here; to purchase my translation of the story in the 2013 issue of Monkey Businessclick here.

Consider and answer the following as you read the story.

1. Identify the setting of each scene.

2. Make a narrative timeline of the whole story.

3. There are two narrators in the work. Their narratives are woven together and often intersect. Describe these narrators in as much detail as you can. Is either of them a self-conscious narrator? If so, identify passages that suggest an awareness of their status as narrators.

4. Go through each sentence and determine who is narrating. Are there any passages where it is not clear who the narrator is? Does a switch in narrators ever occur in mid-sentence?

5. Identify all fantastical and surrealistic elements of the work.

6. What are Mezu 馬頭 and Gozu 牛頭? What is the connection between Mezu No. 9 and the girl? Discuss the function and significance of Mezu and Gozu in the work.

7. Identify elements of both humor and pathos in the story? Do these elements harmonize together in the work?

8. Identify all references to music in the work. Discuss this motif of music and how it relates to the story as a whole. Why does the rooster taste of rock and roll? What is this business with the SONY walkman in the final section? What powers does music seem to be invested with?

9. Discuss the poetic elements (e.g. rhythm, metaphor, metonymy, repetition, ambiguity, symbolic language, etc.) in the work.

10. Discuss the aural/musical elements in the work (e.g. emotive swells, dynamics, symphony-like moments of calm followed by crescendos and climaxes, duets, songs, cries, howls, bleating, etc). Make a kind of musical score that charts this development.

11. Discuss the visual aspects of the work (colors, visual images, references to camera lenses and film techniques, etc.). What is their composite effect?

12. What techniques of rhetoric are employed in the work (e.g. digressions, indirect expression, ambiguity, non sequiturs, etc.)? Indentify and explain the relevant passages. What is the composite effect of these elements?

14.  What is the connection between the goat and the girl?

15. Having now read and listened to the entire work several times, what do you consider the theme(s) of the work to be? Explain.

16. Identify and discuss the Buddhist imagery/references in the work. How do these relate to the overarching theme(s) of the work?

17. Discuss the significance of the following passage, particularly with reference to these notions of diary consumption and resurrection:

The diaries you are chewing on are the diaries I am now supplementing. It’s just that for each diary your stomach decomposes, you race further toward the resurrection. With each notebook that your stomach breaks down—wait, resurrection? Isn’t this a garbled metaphor? I don’t even know. All I can say is that with each notebook your stomach digests you roundly embody another aspect of the universe. I could probably replace “roundly embody” with “master a posteriori.” “Make flesh and blood” might work too. For this is why I write
Why I wrote then
Why I am writing now
With this little hand
Little hand that is not even ten
With these little fingers   and a big pen

18. Discuss the significance of the following passage. Is this episode to be read as an allegory?

—Sever it! you crooned.
You instruct this goat in purgatory to sever the cycle now.
For this is the main theme.
—You must stop devouring these telegrams, these tidings and these telegrams!
The theme evolves.
—Here, chew on this instead. As a surrogate!
What exactly did you hand over? Though a matter purely of song lyrics, what? The this that you sang was that. You know what. And it is now time for you to hand it over. Hand over that. You will extend your hand and . . . I shall hand over this. You are now fully mindful. The scene is now devoid of all mindlessness. You will presently offer him your hell diary, as surrogate edible paper. I will offer him my hell diary, as surrogate. That’s right, I’m the one doing the thinking now. The so-called hell diary that belonged to Number Nine. You follow? Mezu Number Nine was me, you see. And the Mothers was my affiliation. I was the hell warden who kept a diary of what happened . . .[1]
I hand over the diary.

19. Consider this motif of “burning/incinerating memories.” How does it relate to (1) the episode with the goat, (2) to the atomic bombing at the end, (3) to the Vietnam War dream, (4) to Buddhist references and notions of transmigration (rinne), etc.?

[1] Gokusotsu (Skt: bandhana-palaka) are wardens in hell who torture the damned and feed on their flesh. They are often depicted with heads of beasts and semi-human bodies.