Friday, January 9, 2009

Ishikawa Jun on Haikai Intertextuality

In his 1943 essay “On the Conceptual Methods of the People of Edo,”Ishikawa puts his finger on many of the key concepts of modern and postmodern thought, anticipating the new critical idiom that was soon to come in the forms of New Criticism and Structuralism, and later as Post-structuralism and Deconstructionism.

In 1943, however, there were no names for what he was describing, and not being a theorist or philosopher in the formal sense, he made no attempt to systematize his discoveries. Still, it’s apparent from his essay that he was on to something.

Just what were these discoveries? Here they are, divided into the following three groups:

Group A: Intertextuality and the “Five Transformative Devices”
Group B: Self-Mystification and Anonymity
Group C: Negotiations and Reader Response
Group A: Intertextuality and the “Five Transformative Devices”

The key word in Ishikawa’s essay is “transformation,” which appears, in one form or another, a total of nine times. According to Ishikawa, the Edoites forged a new culture by breathing life into the old works and making them “correspond to their quotidian realities.” Ishikawa identifies five types of “transformative devices” (tenkan no sōsa) in Edo-period writings:

Mitate (“analog” or “parody”)
Zokka (“secularization”)
Yatsushi (“disguised contemporary version of a romantic figure”)
Honkadori (“allusive variation”)
Haikaika (“haikai-ification”)

Secondary sources relevant to this section:

Harold Bloom’s notions of “creative misprision” and “poetic influence
Julia Kristeva’s theory of “intertextuality
Allan H. Pasco’s book Allusion: A Literary Graft (1994)
Theories of parody by Mikhail Bakhtin, Simon Dentith, Linda Hutcheon, and Margaret Rose
Theories of pastiche by Ingeborg Hoesterey and Fredric Jameson
Group B: Self-mystification and Anonymity

Here I’ll explore Ishikawa’s notion of “self-mystification” (tōkai-buri), a tendency which he observed in the elusive Tenmei kyōka poets, who “sought to construct a world from the renunciation of authorial name.” Secondary sources relevant to this section:

Roland Barthes’s “Death of the Author” (1967)
H.L. Hix’s Morte d'Author: An Autopsy (1990) on “authorial intentionality”
Wimsatt and Monroe’s “The Intentional Fallacy” from The Verbal Icon (1954)
Fredric Jameson on the “problem with character,” in The Political Unconscious
Derrida’s notion of “free play” in Writing and Difference

I’ll also explore the Edoites’ general skepticism toward the notion of “a singular self”— a skepticism they seemed to share with Saussure, Freud, Barthes, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, and others.
Group C: Negotiations

Finally, I’ll look at Ishikawa’s assertion that interpretation is possible only when the reader has a sufficient understanding of the “negotiations” (kōshō) that were involved in the work’s production. Any work, Ishikawa explains, “loses its meaning the moment it is removed from the order of circumstances I have described above” [namely, its relation to previous texts]. Secondary sources relevant to this section:

Stephen Greenblatt’s theory of “negotiations” developed in Shakespearean Negotiations, which “argues that works of art, however intensely marked by the creative intelligence and private obsessions of individuals, are the products of collective negotiation and exchange” (vii). I will also incorporate Stuart Hall’s “reception theory” into my analysis.

This is what I have so far. Suggestions/questions/complaints/harassment always welcome.


Anonymous said...

I like the picture.
-Josh Lander

Anonymous said...


What are you talking about!? You've haven't read any of those books. Enough with the name-dropping!


Ryan said...


That's very kind of you.


You're right. I mention them here because I intend to read them. Otherwise, I'll forget.


Anonymous said...

Here's a useful site I found. You might want to check it out. Semiotics for beginners:


Anonymous said...

You might also want to take a look at T.S. Eliot's notion of the "mythical method" (e.g., Joyce's ironic use of Homer's Odysseus in his Ulysses).


Anonymous said...

Ryan, Larry, Josh,

The word "kiai" comes up a lot in Ishikawa's writings. I thought you might compare that to Greenblatt's notion of "energy" or "social energy." Greenblatt writes:

"...I want to know how cultural objects, expressions, and practices-here, principally, plays by Shakespeare and the stage on which they first appeared- acquired compelling force. English literary theorists in the period needed a new word for that force, a word to describe the ability of language, in Puttenham's phrase, to cause "a stir to the mind"; drawing on the Greek rhetorical tradition, they called it energia5. This is the origin in our language of the term "energy", a term I propose we use, provide we understand that its origins lie in rhetoric rather than physics and that its significance is social and historical."

-Paul von Fischbach

Anonymous said...

Also check out Bakhtin's notion of "assimilation."

-Josh Assimilated

Anonymous said...

You also might want to look into the term "metalepsis," which is pretty similar to your notion of "mitate."


Anonymous said...

also related to mitate: anamorphis, david lynch's "lost highway," parallels, doubles, flips, Ovid's Metamorphoses, the rules of phantasmagoria that allow being in two places as once, bolagram, matrix of relationships (not deducible to psychology)