Friday, September 19, 2014

Director Shindō Kaneto's homage to Mizoguchi Kenji :"Mizoguchi Kenji: The Life of a Film Director" (1975)

*Original title: 『ある映画監督の生涯』 (1975)
*Director: Shindō Kaneto 新藤兼人(1912-2012)
*150 minutes; with quality English subtitles.
*from the second disc of the Region 1 Criterion Collection release of Mizoguchi's Ugetsu monogatari  (1953).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Teshigahara Hiroshi's "Woman of the Dunes" (Suna no onna; 1964; in full; from Criterion Collection; w/ quality Eng subs)

わたしが来日したきっかけの一つとも言える女優岸田今日子は岸田国男の娘であることは知らなかった。Today's recommended viewing (although surely most of you have already seen it)→Teshigahara Hiroshi's "Suna no onna" (1964; in full; Criterion Collection; w/ quality Eng subs), based on Abe Kōbō's novel of the same name, starring the 34-yr-old Kishida Kyōko, musical score by Stravinsky-promoted Takemitsu Tōru。

Click here to watch film:

[Study guide forthcoming]

Note: Plug laptop into your flat-screen TV for optimal viewing。

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Face of Another (他人の顔, Tanin no kao; 1966), directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara 勅使河原宏

Title: The Face of Another (他人の顔, Tanin no kao; 1966).
Director: Teshigahara Hiroshi 勅使河原宏.
Based on Abe Kōbō's 1964 novel of the same name.
Quality English Subtitles available.
From The Criterion Collection.
Study Guide forthcoming.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Notice from Columbia University Press: A New Translation of the Kojiki (711-712)

Dear Behold My Swarthy Face:

Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the publication of The Kojiki: An Account of Ancient Matters by Ō no Yasumaro and translated by Gustav Heldt.

*       The first new translation of this work in decades
*       The narrative is a compilation of myths, history, songs, legends, genealogies, and other disparate works from which written history and literature were later created.
*       To make the text more accessible to beginners place names, people, and proper nouns are translated within the text

"Heldt’s new, complete, and contemporary translation brings vibrancy and clarity to this often politicized work of ancient Japan. The poetry is rendered exquisitely, the narratives unfold with clarity; the translation itself is at once impeccable and imaginative. A master work that will generate discussions far into the future."
—James E. Ketelaar, University of Chicago

Japan’s oldest surviving narrative, the eighth-century Kojiki, chronicles the mythical origins of its islands and their ruling dynasty through a diverse array of genealogies, tales, and songs that have helped to shape the modern nation’s views of its ancient past. Gustav Heldt’s engaging new translation of this revered classic aims to make the Kojiki accessible to contemporary readers while staying true to the distinctively dramatic and evocative appeal of the original’s language. It conveys the rhythms that structure the Kojiki’s animated style of storytelling and translates the names of its many people and places to clarify their significance within the narrative. An introduction, glossaries, maps, and bibliographies offer a wealth of additional information about Japan’s earliest extant record of its history, literature, and religion.

Ō no Yasumaro (d. 723) was a nobleman of the Japanese court whose Ō clan ruled over an area bearing the same name near the eighth-century capital of Nara.

Gustav Heldt is an associate professor of Japanese literature at the University of Virginia and the author of The Pursuit of Harmony: Poetry and Power in Early Heian Japan.

Translations from the Asian Classics

To read an excerpt, view the table of contents, or purchase this work, click here:

With best wishes,
Meredith Howard, Columbia University Press

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

Today's recommended viewing: this excellent film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People (1895; 2002, in full). 

Directed by Oliver Parker. 

Starring Rupert Everett / Colin Firth / Reese Witherspoon / Judi Dench. I counted 243 jokes in the film; how many can you find?

(Study Guide forthcoming.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts (1881/1987)

Today's recommended viewing: Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts (1881/1987; starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench).

Brother-sister incest, hereditary profligacy, syphilis, euthanasia, rape, bastardry, whoremongery, women reading (social theory) books, free love, neglected wife seducing pastor--this play (condemned universally upon premier in 1882) has got it all. 

(Study Guide forthcoming)


*Update: This just in→Study Guide Question #1: The play speaks/addresses many of the taboos of European civil society in the 1870-1880s. Of course little/none of this shocks us today (as it did audiences in 1882). In our age (which is dominated by "the superego injunction to enjoy," to borrow Zizek's phrase), what are the taboos/limits of acceptable discourse? What kinds of thoughts/statements incur frowns in polite liberal circles/country clubs? What kinds of statements/tweets get university professors fired? Write a play that speaks/addresses these taboos."

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).