Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Dictionary of Marxist Thought By T. B. Bottomore

'Tis the New Year, and I'm stuck in my room reviewing Marxist terminology in preparation for an upcoming exam. If there's any one else out there in the same predicament, here's a very handy guide for brushing up on the terms. About 80% of the text is available.

日記

今日のイスラエル大使館での抗議デモに行ってきた。
日本人の、パレスチナ人の苦しみへの関心に感涙した。

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wittgenstein (1993)

It's past my bedtime, so I'm going to post this link for now and watch it in the morning. The original screenplay, according to Wikipedia, was by Terry Eagleton.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Notes on Earl Miner's On Japanese Linked Poetry


“Linked Poetry in Japanese Literature”

Haikai is an abbreviation for haikai no renga, which is now called renku. It was Masaoka Shiki who transformed haikai into haiku. “The name haiku," Miner writes," came to be widely used in the last decade or so of the nineteenth century as a result of the movement to reform haiku led by Masaoka Shiki.”

In haikai, each stanza relates only to the preceding and following stanza. There is no continuous "plot," and appropriate responsiveness is more important than dramatic consistency. The episodic structure of Genji monogatari exemplifies this, and in the "Picture Contest" chapter we see that the scroll painted by Genji has a similar sequential structure. “We may be sure that Genji's pictures made up no plot," Miner writes. "But they made a sequence.”

Miner also points out that while Western poetics are derived from ancient Greek drama, Japanese and Chinese poetics have their roots in lyric poetry, which emphasizes, above all, the response elicited in the reader. (Miner calls this "affectivism" or "expressivism.") However, aside from citing the brief preface to the Kokinshū, Miner provides little evidence to support his theory of "affectivism/expressionism.” Are we to make assumptions about the entire canon of pre-modern literature based on this preface?

Renga has its roots in poetic dialogue, which was a feature of such early works as the Kojiki, the Nihonshoki, and the Manyōshū. But the first real examples of renga are found in the fifth of the twenty-one imperial anthologies, Kin'yōshū (ca. 1125), which included some short renga. It was around this time that renga was developed by poets Minamoto no Shunrai (ca. 1057-1129) and Fujiwara Kiyosuke (1104-1177). By the Kamakura (1185-1382) and Muromachi (ca. 1392-1568) periods, “serious renga achieved true greatness.”

Miner points out that renga was the art of exile. “Among those leaving [the capital] were the priests and nobles who favored renga.” “Many masters," he continues, "were priests . . or, like Bashō later, they might have the habits of life by which priests were known.” Other examples include Nōin (998-1050), Saigyō (1118-1190), Sōgi, Sōchō, and, much later, Kaga no Chiyo (1703-1775).

Miner also discusses in some detail the organization of the Kokinshū (905), which is arranged according to subjects, natural progression of nature, or the progression of love affairs (from man’s yearnings to woman’s last miseries). After the Kokinshū, this arrangement became the norm. With later anthologies, the section (miscellaneous poems) was often expanded, and "sometimes mirrored the collection at large."

As renga developed, its rules and categories grew more complex. Shinku (close) and soku (distant) relations were introduced, in addition to the new "ushin" and "mushin" styles.

Miner concludes that the history of pre-modern Japanese poetry can be divided into three major stages, according to the dominant poetic forms. First, there was waka, which, already possessing a tendency toward multiple narratives, grew into renga, which then found its final form in haikai (no renga).
“Some Canons of Haikai”

In the kasen style of haikai, there are 36 stanzas, two of which are "flower stanzas" (lines 17 and 35), and three of which are "moon stanzas" (lines 5, 14, and 29). In renga, there are typically 100 stanzas, and the rules are numerous. Yet these rules were abandoned in later renga, and elements previously regarded as vulgar became acceptable. Common artifacts from daily life found there way into poems, and aesthetic distance and fiction are introduced. “Such developments appear to signify a growing tendency to fictionalize,” Miner explains. He goes on:

Such developments are often thought to signify artifice, especially by the Japanese, and especially by Japanese today influenced by the kind of thinking encouraged by Masaoka Shiki. In truth, Japanese literature is often less fictional―or at least more autobiographical―than Western. But the deities in the ancient records were given for their speeches verse composed earlier, and in the Man'yōshū poems by sophisticated poets mask as compositions by the humble or even by animals. . . It is a mater of fine balance. The sabi style of Bashō’s great period is itself a specially fine balance―as it were―between the fictionalizing aestheticism of Buson and the more autobiographical character of Bashō’s own late and “light” style.

[Miner, Earl. Japanese Linked Poetry : An Account with Translations of Renga and Haikai Sequences. Princeton University Press. 1979.]

今日の愚痴


パパは、いわゆるアメ女と帰国子女、両方とも苦手なの。

(ちなみにここの「帰国子女」とは米国に限られているので、他の国なら許す場合もある。)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Earl Miner’s Essay, “The Grounds of Mimetic and Nonmimetic Art: The Western Sister Arts in a Japanese Mirror”


Using Santō Kyōden’s(1761-1816) kibyōshi Edo Mumare: Uwaki no kabayaki (江戸生艶気樺焼, translated as Playboy, Roasted a la Edo) (1785) as an exemplary text, Earl Miner puts forth his thesis that the “Japanese aesthetic . . . rests not on the imitation of discrete agencies but on relation” (93). Therefore, he argues, one must avoid using Aristotelian concepts when assessing Japanese art, since Aristotle had something very different from Japanese poetry in mind when he wrote his Poetics. Miner insists that a better understanding of nonmimetic art― which, in fact, is a far more common phenomenon in the world than mimetic art― is needed for a more informed appreciation of Japanese literature.

Enjirō, the mock hero in Edo Mumare, is the spoilt son of a wealthy merchant who, after reading of the romantic exploits of several famed Heian playboys, sets out on a quixotic quest to transform himself into one such “uwaki.” But lacking both charm and looks, he must hire a slew of actors to follow him around town and bolster his image. Though the denizens immediately see through his ploys, Enjirō is oblivious to their scorn, and remains bent on being seen as the greatest lover of his day. The staged shinjū double-suicide in the end, however, does not go as planned when Enjirō is “greeted” not by his friends hired to stop the suicide, but by two robbers who leave the two hapless “lovers” with nothing but their underpants.

On one level, the work is a parody of the old tales, most notably Genji monogatari and Ise monogatari, both of which appear in the work. “The point of the parody,” Miner writes, “partly involves recollection of the old stories, whose cultural distance plays off against the modernity” (88). It is the task of each generation to make the tradition relevant again, and this is exactly what Kyōden sets out to do by retelling, or, as Walter Benjamin would say, "retranslating,” the old texts for a new age with new sensibilities. The idealized heroes are brought down to earth, and, even if they themselves are not directly ridiculed, the way in which others aspire to them is cleverly lampooned.

In Kyōden’s work, there “is no Aristotelian plot” (74), and the work is structured on a series of episodes, with both text and illustrations working together in a sort of “interpictorialism,” where the “two interplay, and no appreciation of the one is adequate without considering the other” (88). The “episodic,” you will remember, was condemned by Aristotle, who praised above all a unified and consistent plot. But in the Japanese tradition the episodic is frequently the norm, and it is therefore impractical to apply the Aristotelian standards as if they were a priori, universal principles. After all, Aristotle’s theories were intended for drama, while nearly all non-Western aesthetic traditions of the world were founded on the lyric (78).

Moreover, Aristotle’s fondness for unity, dignity of character, and logical plot structure rests on certain black and white assumptions about the world’s fundamental nature and knowability. Miner calls these assumptions a “tidying system,” and notes that it is upon these that Aristotle gives drama its moral purpose. Mimesis, Miner argues, has been the dominant mode in the West for so long simply because “it combined with the aesthetic certain philosophical, moral, and rhetorical matters―as well as because it provided useful underpinning for certain kinds of social order. It offers a realist philosophy― the world is real, knowable, imitable . . .” (84). And according to Miner, such assumptions are foreign to the Japanese.

Is this to say, then, that there were not any moral underpinnings to the Chinese and Japanese literary traditions? Certainly not. Traces of Confucian ethics, imported from China and Korea, can still be found today both in literature and life, and such traces were certainly more conspicuous during the Edo period. But Confucian teachings seemed to have had more of an influence on government officials than on artists. “The continental presumptions,” Miner writes, “did not influence writers as it did the officials of a repressive regime” (84). Kyokutei Bakin, Miner points out, was one of the rare exceptions.

However, in Japan where (if Miner is correct) phenomena are relational and dependent rather than discreet and isolated, such a clear distinction between a “self” and a “real imitable world” must not exist. This would explain why mimesis, or “exact replication” theory, made little if any headway in Japan until the Meiji period. “It should be obvious,” Miner writes, “that this [Japanese tradition] is not mimetic art. For mimesis, we require a reasonably stable sense of what is art, what is nature, who is the artist―and a definable relation between them” (76). A case in point is names. The fact that one person would use a different name for each activity reveals a very different attitude toward “self” than that held in the West, Miner claims. The birth name of the author-illustrator of Edo Mumare was Iwase Sei, but few ever referred to him as such. He is the writer, Santō Kyōden, or the illustrator, Kitao Masanobu, or, for that matter, someone else (he had a number of other names, each depending on the context). “A differing conception of the artist, indeed of selfhood, and therefore of arts and their nature,” Miner observes, “is obviously involved” (72).

If the traditional Japanese concept of art, then, is not mimetic, what it is? Miner calls the Japanese nonmimetic tradition an “affective expressive system,” which can be traced back at least to the preface to the Kokinshū (c. 920 CE), in which Ki no Tsurayuki writes that the “seed” (impetus) for all art is “kokoro” (mind, heart), which, stirred, seeks “leaves” (signs, words) to communicate this initial subjective experience (92). This original impulse to art begins as internal phenomena. The poet then finds its expression in outer things, through which it is communicated to someone else, who, in turn, is moved to continue the process. Such a concept is markedly different from what Aristotle held to be the original “seed”― that is, mimesis, or man’s natural impulse to imitate what he observes in the external world. As I have noted, this nonmimetic conception of art is the norm in non-Western traditions; and furthermore, this concept of the nonmimetic should not be confused with the anti-mimetic art of Western postmodernism, which, as Miner points out, already had a mimetic tradition against which it could react. The Japanese, “never having supposed the necessity for mimesis, never had to oppose it” (77).

One major feature of nonmimetic art is narrative flexibility, which is the ability to shift perspectives freely without having to make explicit demarcations in the text. Such flexibility, in turn, demands of the audience a certain interpretive flexibility. Miner points out an extreme example in Izumi Shikibu nikki, where four points of view are presented in one sentence. The shifts in perspective are not marked by punctuation (which, of course, did not exist in classical Japanese) or by any stage directions identifying the speaker. Rather, they are marked only by subtle shifts in tone or levels of politeness. The dialogue marker, too, is more often omitted than not, thus blurring the lines even further between narrator(s) and characters. Miner notes that which narrator or character is talking “seems to make less difference than what is being talked about” (74). He goes on:

The Japanese assumption [regarding point of view] clearly differs. Point of view and point of attention are variables, correlatives of each other; neither is the same as the other nor possible without the other―and the relationship between the two is more significant because it is also more flexible than in Western narrative. (91)

Also, the narrator can and often does intrude upon the scene to give commentary:

When the narrator intervenes to say, in effect, that Enjirō is an ass, we sense a sudden shift in the poise of ourselves as readers in relation to the narrator and Enjirō. Relation remains but is altered. (89)

Another feature of nonmimetic poetry is the synchronicity of what Miner calls the “three points,” namely, the points of view (the subject or narrator), the points of narrative attention (the object, or characters, place, etc.), and the points of understanding and affect (the reader or audience). A fourth element―“the world”― also comes into play not as the external and impregnable object of our imitation as it is in Aristotelian theory, but rather as both the “setting of what is under attention” and the “interrelation of the three correlatives” (92). In other words, aside from imparting both physical and referential location to the work, “the world” also serves as an intermediary force that links everything and everyone involved― the narrator, author, reader and audience, as well as the intertextual references, the language, and “the stuff” of the work.

As we can see, having independently functioning and distinct dramatic voices is not the most important element in Japanese poetics. Narrators frequently intervene or speak on behalf of characters, and characters often do the same, at times even breaking the “third wall” to speak as actors about the roles they are playing. (An example can be seen in Edo Mumare when Enjirō’s “friend” Shian complains about his assigned role, “Ore ga yaku mo tsurai yaku da”). Japanese audiences learn to expect such elasticity, and see no inconsistency or contradiction in the use of such involutional devices. In this sense, the Japanese narrative is more of a communicative act between characters and narrators, between present and previous texts (both literary and visual), and between the text and reader, with all parties equally capable of shifting roles.

[For the English translation of Edo Mumare: Uwaki no kabayaki, see Shirane's Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Translation Diary: Ishikawa Jun's 『江戸人の発想法について』


Here are the remaining problem areas.
ところで、江戸狂歌の歴史の上で、天明狂歌とは、前代の未得卜養らの狂歌あるひは上方の貞柳行風らの狂歌の、自然の発展と見るべきだらうか。

In considering the history of Edo kyōka we are confronted with the problem of whether to regard Tenmei kyōka as a natural development of the Kamigata style of Teiryū Yukikaze and his coterie, or of Mitoku Bokuyō and others of the previous generation.

Is Teiryū Yukikaze another name for Nagata Teiryū 永田貞柳 (1654-1734), aka Yuensai 油煙斉, the “early Edo kyōka poet [who was] born into an Osaka confectioner’s household, [and who] in 1729 [published] Kyōka Iezuto (Mad Poems as Gifts for Home),” and who is known for a sense humor that “specialized in the juxtaposition of the elegant with the vulgar”(PCCJL, 207)? And what about this Mitoku Bokuyō? Is this another name for Nakarai Bokuyō 半井卜養 (1607-1678), that “Early Edo kyōka, haikai poet, physician [who …] played a part in the redefinition of haikai, having 171 stanzas included in Matsue Shigeyori’s collection, Enoko shū [… and who…] also acquired a name for himself in prose. [… and whose…] haikai collection, Yakko Haikai (Haikai in Slave Language, 1667) preceded his kyōka collection, Bokuyō Kyoukashū 卜養狂歌集, which apparently came out within a few years of his death” (Princeton Companion, 208)? Or are these two people, Mitoku and Bokuyō? Again, why didn’t Professor Chiba include footnotes in his 『日本近代文学評論選』!?

Next, we have this sentence:
文政以後狂歌と狂歌師との相場ががつたり下落したことの佣を作つたものだらう。

Perhaps it was this that sent the kyōka market into a sudden crash after the Bunka era.

What’s this business about 「佣を作つた」? I think 佣 itself is a kind of ancient figurine or doll, but I’m not sure how it relates to the sentence.

And in the following sentence there is the problematic phrase, 放昿自在の世界:
作者みづから狂歌の必ずかくあるべきことを規定し、狂名の中におのれの貧弱な全存在を露出するや、たちまち放昿自在の世界は消え失せて、あとにはただ安っぽい人間と劣等な品物だけが居残ることになったとは、天明狂歌の微妙な性質につき消息の一端をつたへている。

It bespeaks the exquisite temperament of Tenmei kyōka that when these authors, having defined the parameters of their art, finally emerged from their aliases to reveal their naked selves, their freely illuminating world suddenly disappeared, leaving in its trace only sordid people and second-rate goods.

This next sentence has a rather abstruse line from A Treatise of Ten Rules embedded in it, which I’m not sure how to translate:
今狂詩の源流を探つて、十訓抄、閉口後来客、含陰先達儒あたりを引合に出すに及ぶまい。

It makes little sense at this point to start quoting from A Treatise of Ten Rules (“Visitors show up after hours, Pioneer of the shadows, Confucius . . . ”) in an effort to trace kyōshi to its source.

In the sentence that follows there is a reference to the “Ominaeshi,” which is either a kind of plant of the title of a Noh play (again, Professor Chiba, not known for his footnotes).
もし詩意の狂風に似るものを求めるとすれば、たとへば倭漢朗詠集、上巻秋、源順の女郎花のごときをもかぞへることができるかも知れない。

If your goal is to seek the essence of this “poetic madness,” you could probably also count among your findings the autumn poems from volume one of the Ikanrōeishū or the Noh play Ominaeshi.

Next, here’s a poem in the Chinese style called “On Parting with Courtesan Kasen of the Gomeirō Brothel,”by Ōta Nanpo. Having only the vaguest idea of what it means, I’ve turned it into mush:
五明楼贈雛妓
花扇連襟夜入床
五明送客大門傍
楽遊雛妓如相問
一片執心在玉
At night he is led by her sleeve into the bedroom
And the next morning she sees him as far as the entrance gate.
Answer, if one of the young courtesans-in-training asks how the night went:
“One-hearted as a lukewarm love letter.”

I should point out that Ōta Nanpo’s poem alludes to the following Tang dynasty poem by Wang Changling (698-795), called “At Hibiscus Inn (Parting with Hsin Chien),” which has thankfully already been translated by Witter Bynner in his Three Hundred Poems of the Tang Dynasty.
芙蓉楼送辛漸、
寒雨連江夜入呉、
平明送客楚山孤、
洛陽親友如相問、
一片氷心在玉壺

With this cold night-rain hiding the river, you have come into Wu.
In the level dawn, all alone, you will be starting for the mountain of Ch’u.
Answer, if they ask of me at Lo-yang:
“One-hearted as ice in a crystal vase.”

Next, will someone please tell me who this Hanka Sanjin 半可山人 character is, and also what his Myō 妙 is— is it the title of a work, or a particularly quality that his works possess? I think he’s the author/compiler of the Hanka Sanjin Shishō 半可山人詩鈔, a collection of comic poems written in Chinese, but I’m not even sure about this. Also, did he even write a version of Chūshingura: The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers, as Ishikawa implies? Here are the two problematic sentences:
狂詩作者でその技巧のあるひは蜀山を凌ぐものは少くないだらう。たとへば半可山人の妙はこれを称する。なるほど半可山人の忠臣蔵十一段は斯道の眉目ではあらう。

Indeed, there are many kyōshi poets who excel Nanpo in craftsmanship. Hanka Sanjin’s Myō, for example, has received acclaim from the world. And doubtless it is true that the eleventh chapter of his Chūshingura: The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers displays certain features of Confucianism.

And finally, quoting Santō Kyōden quoting Tang-dynasty poet Cui Guofu, Ishikawa mentions these lines from the fifth book of the Selection of Tang Poems (poem 119). Unfortunately, no English translation exists, and I have therefore turned this poem too into mush.
長信宮中草
年年愁処生
時侵球履跡
不使玉階行

The grass within Ever-Faithful Palace
Each year the places of sorrow
Trespassing on the footprints of bejeweled boots
Not letting [him] ascend the jeweled stairs.

Translation Diary: Ishikawa Jun's 『江戸人の発想法について』


In my last post, I said I was almost finished with my translation of Ishikawa Jun’s 『江戸人の発想法について』. Not true. Fact is, I’m bogged down. This thing is taking forever. Here are some of the reasons. (By the way, thanks to Matt of No-sword for helping me in the last post.)

First, the title. “On the Ways of Thinking of the People of Edo” has too many of’s. Not sure what to do about this. Also, there seems to be no decent English approximation for 発想法.

Next, my translation of these three sentences is still a bit awkward:
げんに、お竹説話に於て、われわれはそこに二重の操作しか見ない。一面は江口こそ歴史上の実在で、お竹こそ生活上の象徴であるやうな転換の仕掛に係る。また一面は眼をひらけばお竹、眼をとぢれば大日如来といふやうな変相の仕掛に係る。

In the case of the Otake legend, this “secularizing” device is really only twofold. On the one hand it is devised to convert the historical reality of Eguchi into the real-life symbol of Otake. On the other hand it is a transformation tableau that gives us Otake, when eyes are opened, and the Dainichi Buddha, when eyes are closed.

Next, this whole paragraph is giving me trouble (and what is 右体の次第 !?):
そして、この仮定が忽然と生活上に立てられた時、それは歴史上の現実たる江口説話に依ってとうの昔に証明剤といつたあんばいで、とたんに梃でもうごかない。さつそく筆まめな学者先生がお竹の実話を随筆に書いたり、欲ばりの香具師がお竹の遺物を小屋掛で見せたりする。江戸に於ける俗化といふ言葉は右体の次第から離れたところではたちまち意味を失ふだらう。またやつしといふ思想はおなじ言葉のやつしといふ操作と不可分であるところにはじめて活機を得るだらう。

Now when this hypothesis is suddenly applied to life, it holds firm, having been substantiated long ago by the narrative of the historical Eguchi. The diligent scholar will at once scrawl down “the true story of Otake” in his zuihitsu essay, while the acquisitive mountebank will put Otake’s artifacts on display in some interim shed; but insofar as it relates to Edo, the term “secularization” loses its meaning the moment it is removed from the order of circumstances I have described above. Likewise, the notion of yatsushi for the first time gains its vitality the moment it becomes inseparable from the operation of the same name.

And this honkadori-type waka by Yamate no Shirohito, included in Wild Poems of Ten Thousand Generations (1783). Not sure if I’m getting this right:

柏餅

なら坂やこの手にもちし柏もちうらおもてよりさすりてぞくふ。

“Oak-leave Rice Cakes”

On Narazaka slope: Kashiwagi rice cake in hand I devour it, stroking it front and back.

Also, not sure if I’ve rendered this next sentence correctly, particularly the phrase 家集撰集 (does it really mean “Minamoto no Sanetomo’s personal anthology”?):
本歌取とは、すなはち古歌の俳諧化である。そして、この操作は天明以前にもあつた。また狂歌は家集撰集を出すことも既にそれ以前に行はれていた。

In a word, what we call an “allusive variation” poem is precisely the haikai-ization of an old poem, and this technique had been in use long before the Tenmei era. In fact, it can even be seen in some of the kyōka poems from Minamoto no Sanetomo’s personal anthologies of the Kamakura era.

This is enough for now. There are still several obscure Chinese poems that are troubling me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

石川淳の『江戸人の発想法について』、翻訳日記


まだ独語にしか訳されていない『江戸人の発想法について』(1943) の英訳の完成がいよいよ近づいてきた。エッセー自体はそれほど長くないものの、実は計りたくないぐらい長時間かかった。後からだから言えることだが、最初から研究社発行の分厚い和英辞典を使わなかったのはいかにも愚かなことで、深く反省している。それぬきでは文学的な翻訳はまじで不可能だと痛感した。

ただ、まだ完全に出来上がっていないのは、どうしてもうまく訳せない一文があるからだ。この悪文は、ま、本当に悪文であるのかどうか外人である僕には判断できないけれども、とにかくこれは間違いなく訳しにくい文書だ。

たとべば、天明狂歌に於ける蜀山の位置は元禄の俳諧に於ける芭蕉のそれに当たり、また万歳狂歌集の撰者たるかれの位置は古今集の選者たる貫之のそれに当たるべきだが、しかも蜀山という存在はみづから現象化するといふ仕方によって芭蕉貫之といふ存在を俳諧化しているやうなものである


と原文にある。そしてこれを、

Nanpo's position within Tenmei kyōka, for instance, corresponds to Bashō’s vis-a-vis Genroku haikai, and his position as compiler of Wild Poems of Ten Thousand Generations corresponds to Tsurayuki’s as compiler of the Kokinshū; furthermore, it seems that by willing itself into being, Nanpo’s very existence was to become the haikai-ed form of the combined existences of both Bashō and Tsurayuki. 


と英語にしたけれども、何だかそれでも物足りない気がする。どうせ前後の文脈が分からない以上なにも出来ることがないだろうが、誰かこの文書の改善策を思いついたら、ぜひ教えてもらえるとありがたい。完成できたらさっそく翻訳全体を投稿するので。(あるいは別のところで発表する。)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Notes on Tsubouchi Shoyo's "The Essence of the Novel" (Part 6)


Conclusion (To be continued . . .)

For my next article I intend to expand upon the ideas developed here, and to address the question of how much of the history of post-Meiji Japanese literature can be seen as a response (either hostile or welcoming) to the ideas articulated in Shōyō’s Shōsetsu shinzui. Whereas writers as diverse as Tayama Katai and Mori Ōgai aligned themselves, for the most part, with the ideas of European realism, others, such as Ozaki Kōyō (1873-1939), Izumi Kyōka (1873-1939), and perhaps even Ishikawa Jun (1899-1987) sought their roots in earlier, “pre-realism” traditions of Japanese literature. In the next article, I will consider those writers whose works can be seen as a sort of reaction against Victorian notions of realism.

[Click here to return to Part 1.]

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Notes on Tsubouchi Shoyo's "The Essence of the Novel" (Part 5)

The Pragmatics of Realism

Shōyō holds that there are "natural laws" that govern the novel; but there are, he claims, a set of "intuitive" laws:
It is certainly not my intention to expatiate the true rules, which are intuitive. I ask all you scholars, therefore, not to pounce arbitrarily upon the word "rules" and chide me for my ignorance! The points I make in the following chapters are for the most part my own personal opinions; it may be that many of them are wrong. (50)

On the subject of style, Shōyō likens the novelist to a cook who, with an endless variety of ingredients and possible combinations at his disposal, is concerned only with the final result. Any number of procedures, Shōyō points out, might yield satisfactory results (49). These ingredients are the "three styles of Japan," namely, wabun 和文 (Heian classical), kōgo 口語(colloquial), and wakonkonkōbun 和漢混交文 ("a mixture of the two") (51). The end result is only satisfactory when the styles are appropriately combined in accordance with their subject. He likens this process to mixing water (kōgo) with wine (wabun) (68). The style, he goes on, should be appropriate to affect, and, since the shades of human emotion are infinite, the number of styles at the writer's disposable are also infinite. Therefore, writers should strive to be as stylistically versatile as possible.

Humor, he notes, is attained by using the elegant wabun to describe something inelegant. "Skilful writing adapts the style to the content," he writes, "whether simple or complex, robust or gentle, richly beautiful or unsophisticated" (43). Shikitei Samba (1776-1822), he notes, employed the humorous technique to great success. But as a rule of thumb, the writer should employ a brusque prose for rougher subjects, and a refined style for more delicate ones (57). Dialogue, too, should be appropriate to character, and the mixed style should be used for narrative passages, so that it may lend a literariness to the work (58). Of the two genres yomihon and kusazōshi, the former utilizes this mixed-classical-and-colloquial style to a greater degree of success (60). By contrast, the kusazōshi, which were originally intended to serve as "amusements for women and children," employ too much of the colloquial, making it more vulgar than the yomihon (69). Finally, colloquial-dominated prose should be reserved only for contemporary subjects (72). And the two dangers, he warns, are in sounding either too classical or too colloquial. He recommends a hybrid style such as that successfully employed by Bakin in his Hakkenden and Bishōnenroku, which uses the classical language for over 60 percent of the narrative passages, and for half of the dialogue. Yet, though Bakin is exemplary, Shōyō warns not to imitate him. If you want to write like Bakin, Shōyō advises, "go back to Bakin's starting point" and "savour great works like Genji monogatari and Heike monogatari and Taiheiki, and then strike out on a new path of their own" (68).

[click here for Part 6]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Notes on Tsubouchi Shoyo's "The Essence of the Novel" (Part 4)


To Hell With the Audience, I'm an Artist!

That Shōyō held the audience in low regard is apparent in his berating of Edo writers for their pandering to popular tastes. It was these writers, he felt, who had lowered fiction to the degraded genre of the kusazōshi. Shōyō is also critical of the Japanese theatrical tradition, which he faults for never having held "realism" in high regard, and for its fantastic portrayals and exaggerated, audience-pleasing theatrics. "Instead of trying to reproduce something exactly as it was," Shōyō wrote, "it [Japanese theater] tried to be larger than life" (19). Echoing Chikamatsu, he concedes that a perfect realism would be both insipid and impractical; yet despite these reservations, he calls for a realism that serves as a mirror to man, society and the age (19-20). To Tsubouchi Shōyō, sinning too far in the direction of realism is preferable to straying in the direction of the "unrealism" of the Japanese arts of the past, with their "superficial, exaggerated personalities" (21). Though some disregard for audiences and their vulgar tastes can be found in pre-modern texts, it is my guess that such total neglect of the reader-writer relationship as seen here is an attitude Shōyō picked up from the English Romantics.

Though the presence of stern, Confucian censors were also to blame for the overt moralizing so ubiquitous in Edo literature, it is likely that audiences, too, took pleasure in seeing the virtuous characters rewarded in the end, and that the overt didacticism was, to some degree, a response to audience demand. "The novels popular in Japan since the early part of this century," Shōyō explains, "have been on the whole just this kind of didactic novel and not real novels." Like Kant, Shōyō believes that "true novels" are aesthetic rather than didactic in nature, and that our appreciation of them is not contingent upon any personal interest in their function or existence. The true novel is purposeless, disinterested, and meant only "to give pleasure and ennoble the character." It should not serve as a handbook on how to behave or think. But just how sincere Shōyō was in his advocacy of art-for-art's-sake seems debatable in light of his comments on what is and is not appropriate subject matter for the novel, and in light of a later suggestion that the novel should, in fact, be a "guidebook to life," and not a "plaything" for "women and children, who are fundamentally ignorant and poorly educated" (I, 5).

Just why realism of the Victorian variety is most appropriate for a non-didactic fiction, Shōyō does not explain. It seems to me perfectly plausible that non-realist or non-mimetic traditions can be just as "aestheticist" or non-didactic as the kind of realism that Shōyō advocates. Non-realism and l'art pour l'art are not mutually exclusive, but nowhere does Shōyō acknowledge this.

Shōyō goes on to distinguish art's "aim" from its incidental effects. The "noble thoughts" that art may engender are not the function of art, but rather "a natural side-effect." Here Shōyō makes the distinction, again in Kantian terms, between the primary aim of the novel (aesthetic) and its indirect benefits (didactic). The novel should aspire to be a "perfect, beautifully executed work of art . . . [that] profoundly inspires a reader." "Indirectly," he continues, "it ennobles his character and rounds his education" (33). The direct benefit is "the pleasure the reader feels. In other words, the novel is meant to entertain people" (33). Shōyō uses "entertain" in a rather limited sense, as we will see in the next section where he elaborates on just what qualifies as suitable entertainment. The indirect benefits are possible because the novel teaches us to control our passions; but such "moral instruction," he laments, is unfortunately lost on women and children (35). The final and perhaps most important indirect benefit of fiction is that it provides the "inner truths" that "fill the gaps" in the "official histories" -- again an idea first expressed in Genji monogatari and, later, in Motoori Norinaga's Tama no ogushi.

The new novel, therefore, should not be concerned with the fickle tastes of "ignorant women and children," but should follow its own rules of objectivity, sincerity, and verisimilitude. Shōyō urges writers to include more realistic descriptions of nature for its own sake, even if such descriptions are not directly related to the plot. Such a technique had never been part of the Japanese tradition and must have struck Shōyō's readers as something terribly odd; but, to the young Shōyō entranced by the Victorian English novel, it was is exactly these objective descriptions of nature that served as the hallmarks of the "true novel." Shōyō even suggested that writers should mimic passages found in the novels of Sir Walter Scott in order to hone their descriptive skills (21-2).

[click here for Part 5]

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nixon In China, by John Adams: Act II Scene 2b - I'm the Wife of Mao Zedong

Been stuck in my head for weeks, and I was hoping to get it stuck in your heads, too.

Discover John Adams!

The Drama Nuisance- Aristotle-- Poetics (esp Ch 1-10)

This just in from Jarvis32:
According to Aristotle, the poet is superior to the historian because he is at once concerned with the universal and general, the probable and possible, and the particular and facts, while the historian is concerned only with historical fact and particulars. The history of poetry, he claims, begins with the lyric, develops into epic (diegetic-mimetic mixed narrative), and reaches its final and most perfect form in tragedy (dramatic or mimetic voice).

Mimesis, in contrast to diegesis, is "the original impulse of imitation," and comes naturally to us. Poetry, Aristotle asserts, comes from this natural impulse to mimicry and improvisation. Aristotle then divides poetry into two categories, calling the imitation of things noble "tragedy," and the imitation of the vulgar "comedy" (Ch 6). For both types of mimesis, there are three components: the means (e.g., words, paint, or sound), the object (e.g., people’s actions, nature’s sounds, a landscape), and the manner (e.g., fictional modes, voice, authorial presence or absence, use of dramatic scene, etc.).

Aristotle does not define his concept of catharsis as clearly as he defines mimesis, and, historically, catharsis has be taken to mean any of the following: purgation, purification (compare to the Japanese notion of nagusame), or clarification (i.e., that of pity and fear within the play). The first two are phenomena that take place in the audience, while the third is an element built into the work itself.

In chapters 7,8, and 23, Aristotle discusses the notion of unity, which, together with mimesis, form the central thesis of his argument.

In his essay "Orientation of Critical Theories," M.H. Abrams discusses what he considers to be the six modes of representation. The first three are Aristotelian; the last three Platonic. First, there is Naturalism, which is the literal, scientific representation of natural objects and social life. Then there is Classicism, which is the "generalized representation of nature or the human passions.” Third, there is Pre-modern criticism, which is the representation of classicism, subjectively viewed. Fourth is the representation of ideal forms in nature and in the mind, an example being German Romanticism. Fifth is the "representation of transcendental ideal forms," such as found in Neoplatonic Idealism. And finally, there is the representation of art’s own world -- of the“Heterocosm," as he calls it. An example of this last mode of representation is found in the art-for-art's-sake movement, which began in Europe under the influence of Kantian aestheticism.

Finally, there is Aristotle's famous ranking of the elements of tragedy. Of first importance is plot. Characters and characterization ranks second. What he calls "thought" -- i.e., rhetoric, reasoning, speeches -- places third, while the diction of the speeches ranks fourth. Fifth goes to song composition, and, finally, the costumes and stage setting rank as least important.

It is interesting to compare Aristotle's ranking of the elements with that of Zeami, who held the most important aspect of the No drama to be the poetry itself, and that No theater's ultimate aspiration is to become waka, with which it shares a similar purpose -- namely, to be a pure transmitter of feeling.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Today's Plug: 『Modanizumu』, a new anthology edited by Professor William Tyler


This just in from Mabel Calahan:
If you're interested in the subject of Japanese "modanizumu," you'll definitely want to check out William J. Tyler's new anthology, Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938. The anthology includes some of the big names-- Tanizaki, Kawabata-- but also introduces some relatively unknown writers like Takeda Rinatarō, Abe Tomoji, and Inagaki Taruho. Also included in the collection are previously untranslated works by Yumeno Kyūsaku, Kajii Motojirō, Yoshiyuki Eisuke, Okamoto Kanoko, Hagiwara Sakutarō and Ishikawa Jun. I'll try to write a bit about the stories when I have time. For now, I'll leave you with what the University of Hawaii Press Log had to say about the anthology:

Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913–1938, compiled and edited by William J. Tyler, addresses this discrepancy by presenting in translation for the first time a collection of twenty-five stories and novellas representative of Japanese authors who worked in the modernist idiom from 1913 to 1938.

Remarkably little has been written on the subject of modernism in Japanese fiction. Until now there has been neither a comprehensive survey of Japanese modernist fiction nor an anthology of translations to provide a systematic introduction. Only recently have the terms “modernism” and “modernist” become part of the standard discourse in English on modern Japanese literature and doubts concerning their authenticity vis-a-vis Western European modernism remain. This anomaly is especially ironic in view of the decidedly modan prose crafted by such well-known Japanese writers as Kawabata Yasunari, Nagai Kafu, and Tanizaki Jun’ichiro­. By contrast, scholars in the visual and fine arts, architecture, and poetry readily embraced modanizumu as a key concept for describing and analyzing Japanese culture in the 1920s and 1930s.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nixon in China


Just in from Jarvis32:
Though it’s now common knowledge that the ostensibly liberal but mostly neoconservative NY times editorial page is, for the most part, total crap (especially on matters of foreign policy), I’d always thought that when it came to the arts, the paper was still a legitimate authority. But I’m now beginning to doubt this, too, after reading some very off-the-mark reviews, including this one from 1987, in which avant-garde-unfriendly critic Donal J. Henahan pans John Adam’s opera “Nixon in China,” which is now regarded by most as required listening and, according to this Guardian music critic, is “arguably the most influential opera of the past 20 years.” Granted, the review is old, but it misses the mark so badly that I just had to mention it.

If you haven’t seen the entire opera yet, you might want to warm up with this. Also, if you haven’t seen Oliver Stone’s Nixon, rent it. Though very different, it rivals Adam’s opera.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nakba ("The Catastrophe")


Just in from Josh Lander:
Saw a very powerful documentary by Japanese director Hirokawa Ryuichi last night, called "Nakba." Think it might still be playing at the Bungeiza Theater in Ikebukuro. In the states, I think it's already out on video.

The film left me and those attending me pretty convinced that Zionism, in its extreme form, is a kind of disease. Despite several awkward scenes where the director insists on conversing with his subjects in very poor English, the film is, in my judgment, a groundbreaking success and should be made mandatory viewing in the U.S.

That is all for now, friends.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Interview with translator Alisa Freedman


Something I came across today: an interview with Alisa Freedman, assistant Professor of Japanese Literature and Film at the University of Oregon, and translator of Kawabata Yasunari’s modernist novel The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa (Asakusa kurenaidan; 1930). Having gotten through Kawabata's original only by reading it in conjunction with her translation, I must say she's performed a most valuable service in rendering this highly experimental and difficult novel into English.

But more on this novel another day-- time has expired, and more, it's like a sauna in here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

旧友McCainさんへの絶交状



マケイン氏へ、

 あなたと仲良くなったのは今から十数年前でした。 そのとき、私は未だ長靴を履いていた青年でした。

 あなたのアリゾナ州の北部にある別荘に誘ってもらい、マケイン族もモリソン族も全員で花火をしたり河で泳いだり、森の中で隠れん坊などもして、あの時は本当に楽しかったです。まさか、卑賤な身分で生まれた僕がこんな連中と遊べるなんて夢にも思わなかったわ、とあの時に思わずにはいられなかった。

 その時からも、毎年の、アメリカ独立記念日のお祝いで、あなたの別荘に行くことになり、普通の人が見ることの出来ない世界を紹介してくれたことは何よりです。アメリカに限らず世界のさまざまな芸能人や偉大な人物にも知り合えたのもお蔭様でした(ロシア大統領 プーチンは特におかしかった!)。そして、今、私がこの絶交状を書いていると同時に、あなたの次男 ジミーさんがイラク戦争の前線に出ているようですが、彼と、それから海軍兵学在中の長男 ジャックさん、二人ともと仲良くなったことも、僕のような身分の低いものにとっては、とても珍種の機会でした。本当に感謝しております。

 今回、あなたはアメリカの大統領を目指し出馬したようで、たいへんご多忙のようです。但し、私の視点から見ると、アメリカの主流のマスコミの支援を受け続けれれば、きっと次の大統領になりそうです。それはとても素晴らしいことだと心から思っています。

 ところが、不安なところもございます。その不安なところは何かといえば、あなたはどう見ても徹底したファシストだということです。最近、テレビ映像やネット写真などを見ると、あなたは新鮮な血に飢えているように見えます。イラク戦争をイランまで広げたいとも仰っているようです。ですから、イラク戦争への支持のみならず、イランに対する数多くの脅迫的な発言も含めて、あなたがアメリカの最も硬くなる帝国主義者だということが分りました。親友だった私の言葉を信用出来ないならばこれをお読みください

 これからあなたがアメリカ大統領に選挙されたとすれば、世界が戦争に吸い込まれる可能性が非常に高いと、私が恐れています。別荘に訪問した時は、ただ、あなたの正体が見えなかっただけです。あのとき僕は未だ若かったし、戦争、帝国、ファシズムなどの複雑な言葉や政治問題に関する知識が未だ充分身についていなかったので、あなたが如何にもファシストだということに気づきませんでした。気づいたとしても、あのときに、周りの皆さんが夢中になって楽しそうな顔で遊んでいたので、その楽しみを奪いたくなかったのです。

 ところが、人間とは大人になるにつれ、いろいろな意味で目が段々覚めてきます。あなたほど危険な人物はアメリカにいないと思えるようになりました。ですから、やむを得ず、この手紙によって、キッパリとあなたとの縁を切るより他ありません。ところが、今まで一緒に過ごしてきた思い出はいつまでも忘れられず、自分のお墓まで持っていくつもりです。しかも、あいにく、絶交せざるをえなくなりました。
             今までいろいろありがとうね。
             
                      相棒だったBeholdmyswarthyfaceより

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Interview with pyschologist Kishida Shū


A fine piece in today's Sankei shinbun. It's an interview with pyschologist Kishida Shū 岸田秀, author of Nihonjin to 'Nihonbyō' ni tsuite, A Place For Apology: War, Guilt, and US-Japan Relations (trnsl.), among other works. Kishida first received attention in 1978 when he diagnosed the Japanese as schizophrenic in his book, Monogusa seishin bunseki (English translation: Slacker Psychoanalysis). He raised eyebrows again in 1996 with the publication of Nijūseiki o seishin bunseki suru, in which he likens Matthew Perry's rather ungentlemanly method of gunboat diplomacy to rape.

In today's Sankei interview Kishida discusses what he considers to be the root cause for the failings of the post-war Japanese political system, namely, subordination to America. He sees Japan as having two options at this point: either launch another all-out war against the Americans, or take the more pragmatic route of patiently waiting for America to collapse. Judging from the 笑 emoji inserted into the text, I think we can assume that Kishida favors the latter.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Notes On “The Art of Fiction” (1884) by Henry James (Part 1)


Like Horace, Henry James is more interested in the practical problems of his craft than in theoretical speculation. His essay “The Art of Fiction,” which is the last section of his book Partial Portraits (1888), is in part a response to an article by Walter Besant, who argues that there are certain “rules” to writing good fiction. James vehemently denies this claim, insisting that the only “rule” is that the writer must make his work interesting. Challenging “the old evangelical hostility to the novel”— which he blames for novel’s low status— James calls for a “new novel” that builds upon the groundwork laid by proto-modernist writers like George Eliot (1819-1880), Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), and Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897).

The novel, in order to enter the realm of “high art,” must “begin to take itself seriously" (661). (It might be interesting to compare James’s tract with Tsubouchi Shōyō’s “The Essence of the Novel” (1885-6), which advocates a similar kind of naturalistic realism.) Specifically, James insists that novelists must stop apologizing for being novelists, that they must accept the fact that they describe truths equal to those of the historian, the painter, and the philosopher, and that they are, at the very least, on equal footing with the philosopher, painter and historian, since “their inspiration is the same, their process (allowing for the different quality of the vehicle) is the same, [and] their success is the same” (662). In fact, the novelist may even be superior to his competitors, since he is by default all of them at once. “It seems to give [the novelist] a great character, the fact that he has at once so much in common with the philosopher and the painter; this double analogy is a magnificent heritage” (662).

The novelist, James continues, must assume the semi-omniscient perspective and confident manner of the historian. “To represent and illustrate the past, [and] the actions of men is the task of either writer,” and therefore the novelist must “speak with the assurance, with the tone of the historian” (662). His story—regardless of whether or not it is true— must be delivered as if it were history. (One is reminded here of Mori Ōgai’s 1912 short story “Ka no yō ni” (“As If”), in which Ōgai, borrowing from Hans Vaihinger’s (1855-1932) notion of “als ob,” argues that man, in order to avoid the endless cycle of skepticism and moral relativism, must behave “as if” there were certain objective universal truths, and “as if” subjective noumenal experience actually corresponded to external phenomenal reality.) To admit to your readers that the story you are about to tell is false— as Anthony Trollope and other 19th century writers had done— is “a betrayal of a sacred office . . . a terrible crime” (662). To James, giving the “air of reality” and the “illusion of life” are the supreme virtues of the novel (665).

国家敵対者


This just in from Tom Landers:
八年前にアメリカで可決された「愛国者法」という法律が可也やばいと十分意識はしていたが、この法律によれば、この無害の僕でも「アメリカ国家の敵対者」となり得るということをつい最近知った。その法によれば「国家の敵対者」というフレーズにはいくつかの定義があって、そのうち、僕に当てはめることができるものもあるのだ。

一つの定義によると、実際に政治的な抵抗などではなくて、米国国家に対して悪意のある発言をしたり意見を書いたりするだけで犯罪になるのだ。皆さんご存じのように、僕は何も積極的に行動しない怠け者で、発言だけで「国家敵対者」とされることは何と許すまじきことか!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Was Andy Kaufman the Dazai Osamu of Jewish-American Comedy?


Watching this Andy Kaufman video after spending most of the day reading Dazai Osamu, I noticed that there are some striking similarities between the two artists. No time to go into detail now, but here are a few of the similarities. I hope to elaborate on this topic at a later date.

a) Both view the audience as an object to be manipulated, and employ similar methods of manipulation.
b) Both present with a straight face a fictionalized self as if it were "the real self."
c) Both deliberately use bad humor, over-the-top pathos, and bathos.
d) Both frequently wallow in self-pity for comic effect.
e) Both incorporate neurotic "self-critiques" into their performances.
f) Both insert into their act from time to time hecklers or critics who mock their performance as it is being delivered.
g) Both often show signs of death wishery (or at least the characters they are playing do).
h) Both perform phony crying routines.
i) Their performative techniques are often thrust into the foreground.
j) And, most importantly, they share a central preoccupation, namely, of problematizing the concept of “self,” and of blurring the lines between performance and reality.

I hope I'm not belaboring the obvious here. Oh, and also, both died young (Dazai of suicide, Kaufman of kidney failure). Perhaps dying young was the only to keep people from saying it was all an act.

東北地方を彷徨う旅行 (in order: Sendai, Matsushima, Sakunami, Yamadera, Yamagata-shi)

日本のマスコミ、物まねオウムに過ぎないのか ~外人たる僕の目から見た日本マスコミ~


【修辞学。レッスン1: 反米感情を煽ること】

              例A:

文学の専門で政治問題はあまり自分の研究に直接の関係がないと去年まで思ってきた私だが、今年元日から日本の新聞を毎朝読むと決心し、この三ヶ月で気づいたことは山々ある。左から右への広い範囲でのさまざまな新聞を読むことで、マスコミ全体が少し見えてくるだろうと期待して、一週間毎に違う新聞を読んだ。

例えば、一方の極端から他方の極端へと変えて行き、先週は『赤旗新聞』だったとすれば、今週は『朝日新聞』を読んで、そして来週からは『讀賣』で再来週からは『産経』、とした。この循環を何度も繰り返せば、たいてい日本マスコミの傾向が分かってくるだろうと期待していた。何がタブーなのか、情報や表現の自由はどの程度か、これらの疑問点が少しずつ解けていくことを目指したわけである。

そしてちょうど三カ月がたった今、この期間で気づいたことを以下に述べる。

第一。『産経』にせよ『朝日』にせよ、国際ニュースにおいては、何の変わりもなきに等しいことに気づいた。『赤旗新聞』を除き、どの新聞も大体同じ内容で、何らかの相違があるとしても、それは国内問題に関する社説などに限られている。誰かに命令が下されているかのように、国際や米国に関しての報道は、必ずアメリカのマスコミと一致する。ボスニア内戦、イラク侵略戦争、チベット対中国の紛争、イスラエルのパレスチナ占領、アメリカの日本永久占領、あるいはアメリカの世界諸国への介入などの問題の扱いに見られるように、すべての国際問題に関して、日本マスコミの表現や見解は、なぜか必ず米国マスコミと一致するのである(この事実は、もちろん自分の発見ではないが)。

これは確かに偶然ではない。十年ほど前の『ニューヨーク・タイムズ』が暴露した記事で、戦後の日本では、米国のCIA(中央情報局)から資金援助を受ける見返りとして、自民党はマスコミ報道機関の自由を制限すると約束したことが分かった。 その記事によると、自民党が50年代から70年代までずっと資金援助を受け続けていたが、それ以来は受けていない。にもかかわらず、当時からの思想取り締りが未だに残っているのは一体なぜか。

この一貫した世界観はどこから生まれるか。情報の出所を探れば、きっと『ニューヨーク・タイムズ』や『ウォール・ストリート・ジャーナル』に辿りつくだろう。大ざっぱな言い方かもしれないが、諸親米国の世界観は、この二つの大規模な通信社で製造されているように見える。そしてそこで作られた物語が多くの通信社に送られ、世界中に広がっていく。

例えば、一昨日の『ニューヨーク・タイムズ』で、五年前の今日から始まったイラク戦争を振り返り米国や世界が何を習うべきか、という記事が掲載された。その翌日、予想通りに日本の主流の諸新聞が、それと全く同じ内容の社説を繰り返し掲載した。追加や日本人の立場からの解釈などは一切無い。

よって日本のマスコミのジャーナリストたちは、米国マスコミの直訳者に過ぎないのか、という疑問が否応なしにますます高まっていく。昨日、日本のどの新聞を読んでも、内容は『ニューヨーク・タイムズ』の社説担当記者たち、すなわち新保守派(NEOCON)の、デビッド・ブルックス、リチャード・パール、ジョン・バーンズなど最も熱烈なイラク戦争主戦論者たちが書いた内容と全く同様だった。NHKニュースに出た「政治専門家」と呼ばれる人の分析にも何の違いもなかった。

昨日見たのは、『産経新聞』の「イラク戦争開始五年、習うべきことは何か」だった。まず、アメリカは万能ではない、そして、イラクの国民に対する責任をしっかりと持つ、責任をもつからこそ撤退するわけにはいかない、という主張だった。イラクの国民を裏切ってはならない、という理由を付けて(イラク国民が米国に裏切られたことがないかのように)米軍撤退を拒む。これは一昨日の『ニューヨーク・タイムズ』と同じ主張だ。こういう理屈は、まさにフランスがアルジェリアから、または40年前の米国がベトナムから撤退することを渋った時を彷彿とさせる。帝国主義者の常套手段だ。撤退したらあいつらが混乱状態に陥るから、我らが壊したこの国を救済するために残るのだ、と。

そしてこの『産経』の記事は最後に、占領以来、方針に誤りがあったことを認めなければならない、と主張している。『タイムズ』と同様に、この戦争はそもそも正しかったのか間違っていたのか、犯罪だったのではないか、などという根本的な批判は一切回避。
この米国から渡された物語によれば、侵略したことは当然正しかったが、もう少しイラク国民に抵抗するのを控えてほしかった、というのである。

要するに、テレビも含めて日本の多くのマスコミが報道していることは、アメリカのマスコミや国務省報道官からの発言そのままだ。日本人には分析力、解釈力、自立性は全くないかのようである。

日本の政治やマスコミの問題を巡って、日本の皆さんに改めて慎重に検討してほしい。

(This article was originally posted here at 『ガンジー村通信』)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Into the Fat After


Sometimes I write poems. Here is the first in a series, collectively titled, Oh, Loiterer. This one I wrote today while watching Blanka Vlasic, Croatian Oympic high jumper. The poem doesn’t really have anything to do with sports, though, or Croatia. It is called, "Into the Fat After." Grammarians be advised that there is some deliberate ungrammatical usage in the poem.

Into the Fat After

You wish I went to the mountain
And dedicated it to you

When all was hierarchical and
And an instinct for salvation purged the mind of dross.

I laughed at your sex's little unguarded follies,
Wandering cuttle-fish of life.

Man, whose convulsions are squelched
Under these long days

That, like a pacifier,
We forever suck on like babies?

See the once-bounding gaiety slink away
As we’re left to pass, together, through today

And into other days,
Where other systems will administer

The evening’s racing through the city
Bluer than any bluefish,

Through the demystified music and solitude
Commonly known as “adulthood”?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Yasukuni Shrine on the Anniversary of War's End

This just in from Grady Glenn:
I went to the Yasukuni Shrine on Friday to see what all the hubbub was surrounding this sixty-third anniversary of Japan's surrender. I was expecting a little excitement from the uyoku dantai, but I'm afraid they've lost their moxy in recent years.

After listening to a few of their speeches, I realized that their movement lacks two cardinal components: a coherent vision and a charismatic leader who can articulate that vision. Their main complaint this year: "China [or Shina 支那 in their parlance] must stop making rotten gyoza that sickens our nation's valiant young men and virginal maidens!" Not a word about Japan's foreign policy, the "special relationship" with America, their increasing irrelevance on the global stage, or any other real problems.

Apparently last year riots broke out among the police, the uyoku, and the left-wing student groups. This year, only the police and the uyoku showed up, so there was little scuffling. I did get to see some of the Cabinet ministers paying their respects to the dead, but I was too far away to tell which was Abe Shinzo and which was Koizumi Jun'ichiro.

Although I tend to be more sympathetic to expressions of nationalism than your average enlightened Western liberal, on the whole I must say the experience was a bit creepy, especially the part where several hundred crusty seniors strutted out in formation wearing Imperial Japan Army uniforms and armed with bayonets. But as anyone who's recently visited Washington D.C. knows, our war memorials-- especially the newly-added National World War II Memorial that is a testament to our drift toward fascism-- are no less creepy.

Tomorrow I'm off to Sendai, Sakunami, Matsushima, and Yamagata city. In preparation for the trip I'm reading Kirikirijin 『キリギリ人』(1981), Inoue Hisashi's long comic novel written in the Tohoku dialect. Be back next week.

[Note about picture: I think that's me in the far background. Look closely.]

Saturday, August 9, 2008

日本で困ること


海外滞在中の日本人が現地の人に全く同じ質問を何回も聞かれることはよくあるかどうか知らないけども、私は日本に来てから何百回か以下の質問を聞かれた。
    
      「日本で何か困ることはありますか?」

誰に会っても初対面の会話の際、この質問が必ず出てくるが、それは一体なぜなのか。外人に会った時に焦らないためこれを聞きなさい、と小学校の授業で皆が習うのか、としか考えられない。

どう答えれば良いのか、いつも迷ってしまう。知らない漢字は時にある。外人で特別扱いされることも時にあるが、それほど酷い差別ではあるまい。奨学金の金額は最近更に減っているけれども、別段、生活に窮しているわけではない。などと考えながら「いや、ないです」といつもそっけなく答える。

ところが、つねに困っていることがあるとようやく気付いた。

アメリカの町を歩き回っているとき、駐車した車の窓に反映する自分の顔を眺めたり、髪が揃っているのか、変な涎や乾いた歯磨き粉が顔についていないのか、顔の様子をチェックしたりする癖があったのだ。しかし、日本に来てから、それは出来なくなったのだ。日本の停車している車の中に必ず人間がいるからである。止まった車に乗った人は何をしているのか知らないけれども、必ずや誰かが乗っている。不思議なことに。

だから今度、日本で困ることは何かと聞かれたら、車の窓に映る自分の顔が見えないこと、これに一番困っているぞ、と答える。

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ishikawa Jun and the Other Modern (Follow-Up)


Matt asks: "How do you see Sōseki fitting into the Edo vs Meiji takes on modernity, as defined here? Seems to me that he’s big on shabbification, but also pretty invested in realism (at least in certain novels and on certain topics)."

Well, Matt, it’s an interesting question. I wish you’d posted this yesterday before my meeting with my professor, who’s a Sōseki expert of sorts. She’d be able to answer this.

My general impression is that Sōseki lacked the kind of nostalgia for Edo that we see in later writers like Ishikawa Jun and Nagai Kafū. Perhaps he was still too close to the period to feel any nostalgia for it, or perhaps things hadn't gotten that bad yet.

Sōseki did, however, appear to relish his role as critic of modernity (particularly of the Fukuzawan sort), but he seemed to come at it from a different angle. I think he was altogether too stern, ethical, and grandfatherly (even though he died before reaching a grandfatherly age) to enjoy the relatively rowdy and sexualized culture of the Edo plebes. Then again, I could be totally off here.

One example: Sōseki constructs a sort of alternative to the Fukuzawan modern in his novel Kusamakura, in which a first-person narrator leaves the modern city to pursue his solitary, utopian vision of art. But the sources of this vision seem to be Rousseau and the solipsistic Romantics, and the wenren literati of China and Japan, rather than the Edo poets.

But if anyone knows of any instances of him drawing from Edo culture (particularly from the haikai poets), do let me know.

Final note: My apologies for the excessive 渋み of the article! I’ll try to add a little 軽み to the next one!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

暑い日に熱病映画


「コレラの時代の愛」観た。とてもおもしろかった。やっぱりハビエル・バルデムが相当いい俳優だと改めて思った。

マルケスのマジックリアリズム、、、、たしかに1,000人近くもの女性とセックスする、なんて、亡霊が出てくる、とかよりも非現実的かも。

熱病のように一人の女性を愛しつづける、一方で、好色天才ぶりを発揮する側面が、おもしろくてたまらなかった。

おすすめ。

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ishikawa Jun and the Other Modern


W. David Marx, editor of the popular online journal Neojaponisme, has kindly invited me to post this article, in full, on his site. In the article, I explore the connection between Ishikawa Jun's "modernist" literature and the literature of the Edo period (1603-1868), particularly of the Tenmei era (1781-1789). This being my second contribution, I need you all to post flattering comments that make me look smarter and cooler than I really am. (Last time they tore me apart!)

Click here for the article.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Gaijin Nationalist Party of Japan (Follow-Up 2)

Just in from Josh Lander:

In response to Bryce's second comment: While a grad student in the states, I actually attended that John Dower lecture where he compared the Bush administration to the government of Japan in the 1930s. (Not that my being there means anything.) It was a very moving speech, and Dower had many good points. But I think to blame nationalism for, specifically, the disaster in Iraq, is to ignore the broader picture.

There’s no doubt that the rhetoric of the Bush administration is often couched in nationalistic/patriotic terms, which the media of course echoes. But the rhetoric used to talk about the war and the ideology that drove us into war are two very different things. My point is that the ideology that drove us to war had nothing to do with any nationalist agenda (even if Bush himself thought it did); in fact, most of the ideologues who pushed for war openly scorn the “old notions” such as the nation, sovereignty, etc.

I don’t mean to sound like a defender of nationalism– believe me, I’m not– but I think we must be aware that nationalism’s anthetitical ideology– “globalization” or whatever we might call it– can be just as dogmatic and unpleasant.

The Gaijin Nationalist Party of Japan (Follow-Up)

Just in from Grady Glenn:

Statiq is absolutely correct when he says: “In essence it is probably easier to reject nationalism when your nation is part of the dominant international culture. If you don’t feel that your culture/identity is a part of that, but rather that you are left out or worse under attack by external elements, then the nation state is still a relevant frame of reference.” Well put.

And Bryce, you are right about there being many in the IR world who consider Walt and Mearscheimer “hideously outdated.” Their ideas and methods are indeed rather unhip. They’re old-school. But the hip, left-wing internationalists who dominate IR (and social sciences in general), by focusing excessively on ideology and philosophical platitudes, have tended to overlook state power, which W & M see as the driving force in international relations.

And though the Ron Paul camp is a diverse group, I think his base regards itself as the nationalist opposition to an administration that has discarded “national interest.” Those on the left who see the Bush administration as excessively “nationalist” are misreading things.

Grady Glenn on the Possibility of a Gaijin Nationalist Party of Japan

Just in from Grady Glenn:

Is it possible to be a gaijin and a Japanese nationalist? If so, I think I’m becoming one. The only time I’m not annoyed by the newspapers here is when I come across that rare article written with the “national interest” in mind. Most are written from this phony “global perspective” identical to the mainstream media in the U.S. (Try lining up today’s Asahi and Sankei Shinbuns with yesterday’s NY Times: the international news articles and op-eds are nearly identical.)

Given the history of the first half of the 20th century, it's easy to see why "nationalism" has been a dirty word for the last sixty or so years. But I think it’s starting to make a comeback— and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the U.S., there’s been the resurgence of political science realists like Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, and others. In politics, populists like Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, and Ralph Nader seem to have only increased their following in recent years. On the net, there’s Antiwar.com. And in the blog-world, there’s Philip Weiss and others who argue that “national interests”— regardless of how imagined the notion of “the nation” might be— cannot be ignored.

If America can have its resurgence of nationalism, why not let Japan have theirs?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

石川淳におけるモダニズム


石川淳、江戸文学、そしてモダニズム。この三つの言葉をキーワードにして、今回の記事を書きました。そして、数多くある日本についてのウェブジャーナルの中で人気#1の NEOJAPONISME に掲載してもらうことになりました。いずれは和訳をしたいけれども、今のところは英語しかないので、興味ある方、これにクリックして頑張ってお読みください。

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Performance of East-West Discourses in Tanizaki's "In Praise of Shadows"


W. David Marx, editor of the popular online journal Neojaponisme, has kindly invited me to post this article, in full, on his site. The article is about Tanizaki's famous essay, "In Praise of Shadows" 「陰翳礼讃」. This being my first contribution, I need you all to post flattering comments that make me look smarter and cooler than I really am. Click here for the article.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

To Nadja, From Prison

Part three in a series of poems, collectively titled Oh, Loiterer.

To Nadja, From Prison

Reveal to me how fragile is, how we
Did it before the rose, heads like melons,
While the others razed the ramparts of the city,
How the clouds were gauzy like a veil.

At least ballpark it for me. The ump
In me cannot, will not accept desire
As the only blanket to keep us warm
While night forgives our more serious flaws.

Today didn’t do what we wanted it to do.
The first thrills of revolt now fade
Into the terror of major decisions and stress.

Now, nowhere to turn, we sink further into the present,
Smiling at its vast simplifications.
“I’ve come to love forests, only messy ones
That leave you rootless, bedraggled, a pauper for feeling.”

Notes on Tsubouchi Shoyo's "The Essence of the Novel" and the Importation of Victorian Realism (Part 4)


A Puritanical Penchant

Despite his famous definition of the novel -- "The main business of the novel is human nature . . . [i..e.] man's sensual passions, what Buddhism calls the one hundred and eight appetites of the flesh" -- Shōyō surprisingly allows little room for realistic description of these "sensual passions." Seeking to distance himself from the Edo literature that was drenched with eroticism, Shōyō pursues a puritanical path that seems at odds with his own definition of the novel. Despite his bold claims about the novel, he ends up sounding like a prudish Victorian, or a Tokugawa Confucian scholar warning of the dangers of pornography (36-40). "It [the novel] must avoid lewdness," he chides, "as music avoids bawdiness; painting, eroticism; and poetry and drama, vulgar language" (28).

Shōyō concludes that there is no demand for the erotic among proper, upper-class, discerning men, and that the problem with past literature is that it was aimed at the uncultivated classes. Works that otherwise had the potential to become masterpieces -- such as Jippensha Ikku's Hizakurige and Kinga's Shichi henjin -- devolved into pornography because their audiences demanded it. If only these authors had aimed at a more discerning and civilized readership! Shōyō laments.

Though the Japanese are often thought to be indirect and ambiguous when it comes to the subject of sex, from Shōyō's essay one might conclude that the opposite is true. Here Shōyō, under the influence of Victorian mores, is making an appeal to his supposedly coy countrymen to stop the explicit eroticism that contaminates Japanese fiction, and to be more indirect in their descriptions. Love scenes, he writes,
"should be dealt with as briefly as possible, and the rest left to the reader's imagination. To lay bare the mysteries of the bedroom and reproduce the details of their conversation there in the name of realism is a task belonging not to the novelist but to the writer of love-stories" (79).

[Click here for Part 5.]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Notes on Tsubouchi Shoyo's "The Essence of the Novel" (Part 3)


Our Days of Involution are Over

Whereas in the Japanese tradition a work of art tended be more art-referential than life-referential, Shōyō's new ideology of realism by contrast held that the work should be a response to life itself, rather than to the self-reflexive world of art. "An intelligent person once defined literature as existing solely to provide a critique of life," Shōyō declares, quoting a passage from John Morley in which he praises novelist George Eliot (Part I, Ch. 3). In this sense, the "new novel" that Shōyō advocates represents a break from the past; the existence, meaning, and value of a text is no longer contingent upon its place within the larger series. The tradition -- which, according to Roy Andrew Miller, begins with Po Chu-i's (白楽天, 772-846) "Song of Unending Sorrow" 『長恨歌』 and mutates through the various forms (waka anthologies, monogatari, Nō theater, kabuki, kibyōshi, ninjōbon, etc.) -- is no longer the starting point for Shōyō. Whether consciously or not, Shōyō is advocating a kind of "cult of living" where art refers only to the external, "lived" world and not to the "unlived" world of art. "Morley is right," Shōyō concurs, "authors should always make the discussion of life the first consideration of their writing" (29).

In Chapter One, Shōyō classifies art into two categories, the visual and the abstract. The visual (e.g., painting) makes use of color, shapes, and textures. The abstract arts (e.g., poetry, music, jōruri) make use of human emotions, and appeal not to the eye but to the mind. (There is a third, hybrid type, such as dance or theater, but this is not discussed by Shōyō in any detail.) The novel, therefore, in dealing with human emotions, "attempts to describe human nature [by which he means the 108 Buddhist bonnō passions] and social conditions" (8). Under these new conditions, pastiche, which had been a predominant technique in traditional Japanese arts, is suddenly deligitimated. In this new framework, art that is conscious of its being art is no longer acceptable. The old tacit contract between writer and reader which acknowledged that all art is, alas, an artifice -- a contract not dissimilar to what Coleridge called the "willing suspension of disbelief" -- was no longer binding, and as a result much of the richness that resulted from the ambiguity between "real" and "unreal," "art" and "life," was lost. Under this new ideology of the real, the artist's formal techniques, too, were pushed into the shadows. The new novelist, Shōyō proclaimed, must adhere to the technique of shasei 写生 (the presentation of "reality as it is"), and all pastiche, involution, and reference to anything outside this "reality" was roundly discouraged. "The spell is instantly broken," Shōyō writes, "when closer inspection reveals both the operator and the mechanism" (24-25).

What eventually followed was a "cult of truth," represented most radically by the Naturalists, which sought to eliminate all traces of artifice, literariness and refinement, and to retain only, in the words of Tayama Katai 田山花袋 (1871-1930), "rokotsu naru byōsha," or "straightforward descriptions." A second consequence of this "cult of truth" was the conception of the narrator as an omniscient or semi-omniscient bystander. Novels in the third person grew significantly in number. The narrator was recast into the role of objective perceiver of reality who, with his powers of insight, stood apart from his creation, and, god-like, ruled over it with little or no intervention. New values such as "sincerity," "innovation," and "originality" also became buzzwords, and the old Edo writers were scorned for not adhering to these. Nouveaute replaced pastiche, and writers were discouraged from borrowing from either the classics or contemporary works. "A novel," Shōyō declares, "is the product of its author's imagination" (74).

Citing Bakin's Hakkenden as an example of what not to do, Shōyō provides a few pointers for his readers. Like the brothers in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, each of the eight main canine heroes in Bakin's Hakkenden personifies an abstraction, in this case each of the eight Confucian virtues. Since people are more than the embodiments of abstracted virtues or vices, characters must be so as well-- to do otherwise would be to go against the rules of psychological realism. Thus, Shōyō dismisses Bakin's characters as no more than "marionettes." To write psychological depth into a character, Shōyō explains, the writer must avoid idealization and construct him out of observable reality and according to "psychological principles." (27) Unfortunately, Shōyō does not tell us what these principles are. He does say, however, that the writer's own subjectivity should be minimized or, if possible, buried completely into the work. Elsewhere hailing Shakespeare as the master of this buried subjectivity, Shōyō here urges writers to subdue their own subjectivity and remain detached, objective, and scientific. "Once his characters make their appearance in the story," he writes, "he should think of them as living people. In speaking of their feelings, he should stand by as an onlooker and describe things as they are, rather than superimposing his own ideas of emotion, good or bad, upon them" (25). Ironically, the complete opposite occurred with the Japanese Naturalists, who at first showed the influence of Shōyō's ideas but eventually became so solipsistic that they lost all sense of objectivity and distance.

As stated earlier, Shōyō expresses strong opposition to escapism in art. He distinguishes "true fiction," which possesses verisimilitude and takes as its object human behavior, from "fantasies," which are marred by absurdities. Incidentally, a similar distinction is made in the "Hotaru" chapter of Genji monogatari, and Motoori Norinaga 本居宣長 (1730-1801) too makes mention of this in his Genji monogatari tama no ogushi (1796). But whereas the dinstinction is made in Genji in order to defend the value of monogatari based on the merits of nagusame (or consolatory powers), Shōyō makes the distinction in terms of the novel's relation to "truth." Knowledge of human nature and society-- much like scientific knowledge-- is possible only through the study of "true fiction"; by contrast, nothing can be learned about human nature from reading fantasy. Revealingly, the value of fiction for Shōyō is proportionate to its relation to knowledge. Shōyō writes of the escapist fantasies,
Yet because they wrote in order to satisfy public demand, they could know nothing of such things as the real purpose of art. Flights of fancy unrelated to the truth went being being merely acceptable to being a matter for pride. No doubt the readers loved it (13).
[click here for Part 4]

Monday, June 30, 2008

Notes on Tsubouchi Shoyo's "The Essence of the Novel" (Part 2)


The Ideology of Realism

Having found themselves in the "civilized present," Tsubouchi Shōyō and his contemporaries were in need of a new literary form flexible enough to withstand the complexities of their rapidly westernizing world. It is within this context that an "ideology of realism" was developed. A genre large enough in scope for "modern ideas" was not to be found in the old forms, whether that of miniaturist waka or haiku or the traditional theater with its exaggerated mimicry. "The scope of the novel is on the whole wider than that of the theatre," and only it, he asserts, can provide a form sufficient for the modern age (21).

To illustrate what I mean by the term "ideology of realism," let us look at the following passage from W.G. Aston's A History of Japanese Literature (1899) in which he criticizes the yomihon of Bakin (he calls it "the romantic school" and faults it for its "unreality") and praises the ninjōbon for their "realistic" portrayal of the human heart.

The novelists of the romantic school [i.e., yomihon writers such as Bakin] were too much occupied with sensational situations, hairbreadth escapes, and supernatural wonders, to study the human heart with its affectations and passions; while Ikku and Sanba, though excellent in their way, were humorists and nothing more (Aston, quoted in Kornicki, 464).


Aston's statement rests upon the following assumptions: that the artist's proper subject is human emotion, that his proper method is a sort of scientific realism, and that his proper tone is one of sincerity. This strikes me a rather sentimental and stodgy conception of art which leaves little room for play, pastiche, imagination or humor-- attributes which, under this new rubric, might be condemned as frivolous. According to Aston, "extravagance, false sentiment, defiance of probability whether physical or moral, pedantry, pornography, puns and other meretricious ornaments of style . . . impossible adventures" are all characteristic of second-rate art. And Aston is not the only observer who holds such prejudices. In fact, many of the last century's most prominent scholars of Japan seem to share a similar critical disposition that was largely informed by 19th-century Victorian notions of art and realism. Robert Leutner writes of Keene that he is incapable of "appreciating them [i.e., Edo literature] on their own terms" (Kornicki, 465). But this statement should not be read as an attack on Keene -- who is of course one of the great pioneers of this field-- or on Aston or Tsubouchi Shōyō, for that matter. Instead, it should be read as a warning that critical theories must be applied with extreme care -- especially when crossing into traditions that have different fundamental assumptions about the very nature and function of art -- and that one must be almost neurotically conscious of the existence and origins of one's preferences. For Tsubouchi Shōyō, his ideas about realism and mimesis were not unconscious assumptions; rather, they were the result of an accumulation of acquired knowledge about the principles of a literary tradition fundamentally different from his own. And his fault, if it can be considered as such, lies in his imperfect appropriation of Western theories to his non-Western tradition, and in his refusal to acknowledge the possibility of a separate set of aesthetic principles.

[click here for Part 3]