Saturday, July 25, 2015

On Kawabata Yasunari's "Pomegranate" (Zakuro; 1945)

Tomorrow is Open Campus; I have to give two lectures in Japanese to 80 potential children-clients and their parents; I have 40-min to teach the basics of reading narrative (see 13 points:; for a sample text, I chose the shortest story I could find:Kawabata Yasunari's "Pomegranate" (Zakuro; 1945); I just realized, however, that this story might not be so appropriate, as it is about a teenage girl's discovery of her recently-ripened vagina, as symbolized by the "pomegranate" fruit that she plucks from the tree and shares with her (prospective?) boyfriend before he goes off to war。


Friday, July 24, 2015













11.作品の形式は何か。(bildungsroman, kunstlerroman, 告白、冒険(探求)物語、ピカレスク小説、夢物語、散文詩、百物語、日記、物語、歌物語、説話等)。作品の内容が形式によってどのように形成されているか、そしてその逆はどうか。



Thursday, July 23, 2015

13 Essential Points to Consider When Reading Narrative

This just in from Swarthyface:
1. Who/what is the narrator? Is he/she/it first person, third person, neither?  
2. Is the narrator a “reliable” or “unreliable” narrator? Can we trust what she says? Or is she trying to justify/vindicate herself to her readers/the world (as in Ōgai’s Vita Sexualis)?
 3. If third person, is she omniscient? Limited omniscient? Where is the focalization point? On what character(s)? 
4. Does the narrator primarily “show” (via mimesis, dialogue, free indirect discourse, interior monologue, etc.) or “tell” (narrate, describe from the narrator’s perspective)? How does the preferred narrative strategy affect the presentation of the story and the arrangement of plot? (Example to consider: Akutagawa’s “Yabu no naka,” which is all “show” and no “tell.”) 
5. What is the relationship between (a) the narrator and (b) the events/characters that he describes? How close are they emotionally/temporally/spatially? Is there any ironic distance? Is dramatic irony created? If it is a first-person narration, is there an “epistemological gap” between the narrator at present and his past self?
 6. Always keep in mind the era/historical context/literary context in which a work was written. Is the work a reaction/response to certain events or forces of history, or to certain literary trends at the time (e.g. Ōgai’s Vita Sexualis)? 
7. Consider the style of the work. (You will usually have to consult the original for this.) Is the style more literary/poetic/metaphoric/symbolic/figurative or more representational/realistic/transparent?
 8. What sort of symbols/images/metaphors/extended metaphors are found in the work? What is their effect? Do these images/metaphors/symbols carry specific meanings that are culturally prescribed? Or are they universal? (Note: in general, the more recent the work is, the more “universal” these symbols and metaphors are.) 
9. Always make a clear distinction between the author and the narrator. Don’t fall into the trap of the 私小説 mode of reading. Narrator and author are not the same, even if there is biographical overlap (as in Ōgai’s Vita Sexualis).
 10. Note the (implied) relationship between narrator and reader/audience. Does the narrator address a specific audience? Is she confiding in this implied reader? Trying to convince the reader of something? How does the presence of this implied reader affect the narrator’s behavior/narrative? (Note: an implied reader/audience often makes the narrator more conscious of his act of narration, as seen in the “self-conscious” narrators of early- and pre-modern Japanese fiction, Akutagawa’s “Negi,” Dazai Osamu’s fiction, Ishikawa Jun’s fiction, and much contemporary fiction.) 
11. Always note the form(s) of the work (e.g. bildungsroman, künstlerroman, confession, quest story, picaresque novel, dream narrative, prose poem, ghost story (hyaku monogatari), diary, monogatari, uta monogatari, setsuwa, etc.). How is the content shaped by the form(s) in which it appears? How is the form affected/changed/altered by the content it contains? 
12. How is “desire” depicted in the work? Who desires what? What is the nature of that desire? How are desire and narrative related? (Note: Criticism that focuses on these questions usually falls into the category of psychoanalytic criticism.) 
13. Do the characters correspond to certain archetypes? Are these character types particular (i.e. national) or universal or both? (Example: Botchan=Edokko, but he is also recognizable to non-Japanese readers who know nothing of Edo.)

13 Essential Points to Consider When Reading Narrative

Or, in PDF format...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monkey Business Vol. 5 is now available!

Though you will not find me in this year's volume (I had to take the year off to focus on finishing dissertation/200-pg appendix, the big move to Nagoya, etc), being the good sport that I am, I will continue to promote the project lavishly, as it is hands down the best literary journal of Japanese literature in English translation that the world has ever seen。『Monkey Business』 Vol. 5 , now available in paperback and electronic formats! Click here to purchase at the web store!

Vol. 5 Table of Contents

PHOTOGRAPHS ARE IMAGES — a vignette by Aoko Matsuda, translated by Jeffrey Angles

THE GREAT NOISE — a short story by Masatsugu Ono, translated by Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen

VARIATION AND THEME — a graphic narrative by Satoshi Kitamura, inspired by “Doubles,” a poem by Charles Simic

THE THIRTEENTH MONTH — a short story by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Hitomi Yoshio

THE CRULLERS — a short story by Stuart Dybek

MOTHER LEADS ME FROM IWANOSAKA TOWARD SUGAMO — a chapter from a novel by Hiromi Ito, translated by Jeffrey Angles

STAR DATE by Laird Hunt
A RITUAL by Matthew Sharpe
3 > 16 > 44 by Steve Erickson

SO WHAT SHALL I WRITE ABOUT? — an essay by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen

FAMILY TRADITIONS — a short story by Eric McCormack

TWELVE TWITTER STORIES by Toh EnJoe, translated by David Boyd

GOODBYE, CHRISTOPHER ROBIN — a short story by Gen’ichiro Takahashi, translated by David Boyd *for the official 『BMSF』 study guide to this story, click here

HAZUKI AND ME — a short story by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Ted Goossen

SHOEHORN TECHNIQUE — comic strips by Ben Katchor

UNDER THE CHERRY TREES — a short story by Motojiro Kajii, translated by David Boyd

IN THE BOX — a short story by Taeko Kono, translated by Jay Rubin

THE FORBIDDEN DIARY (PART 9) — an excerpt from a fictional diary by Sachiko Kishimoto, translated by Ted Goossen

THIS IS HOW WE TALKED ABOUT IT — a short story by Yoko Hayasuke, translated by Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen

ON NOT KNOWING MY OWN BOOKS — an essay by Kelly Link

BOTCHAN AND TSURU-SAN — a short story by Taki Monma, translated by Ted Goossen

RIVERS — a short story by Keita Jin, translated by Paul Warham

THE BOOK OF THREE HUNDRED TREACHEROUS WOMEN — an excerpt from a novel by Hideo Furukawa, translated by Michael Emmerich

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pure Form as Such

Just attended a 90-min emergency interfaculty meeting whose sole purpose was to explain in real time the actions of that 90-minute emergency interfaculty meeting, with the aid of a 90-page booklet that represented in graphs that very meeting! Talk about narcissistic postmodern self-reflexive involution! It was like looking into three mirrors that face each other! .... Not that I'm complaining. It was beautiful--sublime even. Pure form as such!