Monday, January 5, 2009

Letter to Mom (Or, On Wharton's The Age of Innocence and Tanizaki's Naomi) Part II


Mom,

Jarvis32 sent me this link to Suzuki Michiko’s article “Progress and Love Marriage: Rereading Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's Chijin no ai,” which apparently addresses this subject of Naomi-as-parody. Thanks for the tip. I’ll look into it.

I also put the question of Naomi-as-parody to the good professor at Arizona State. His response:
I've never encountered the analysis of Chijin no ai that you speak of. It's common to treat it as a parody of (1) confessional 私小説 and of (2) 源氏物語, particularly the Genji-Murasaki plot line. I put your question to my former student (now at Berkeley), who has read more about Tanizaki more recently than I have. Here's his reply:

“As for the Tanizaki question, it rings precisely one bell. I remember in Tomi Suzuki's book Narrating the Self (it's the one about I-Novels) she discusses Chijin no ai, or rather Naomi herself, as a parody of the “modern woman.” I'm pretty sure that's the word Suzuki uses, "modern woman." Suzuki uses "modern woman" in a sociological sense—not literary— to denote a new, early 20th century feminine ideal. The "modern woman" of early 20th century Japan was more than the Confucian, upstanding woman; she was also cosmopolitan, chic, etc. Suzuki's point is that Joji's project (to make Naomi into an English speaking, Jazz dancing woman capable of mixing with cosmopolitan socialites) embraces certain features of the "modern woman" ideals of femininity. Hence, her “moga” behavior is a subversion of the “modern woman” stereotype.

"I'm paraphrasing Suzuki's argument from not-too-recent memory, so I might be getting some of the facts wrong, but that's the only time I remember reading "Chijin no ai" and "modern woman" in the same argument."

I agree that Naomi is a "subversion" of the ideal of the modern woman, as embraced by Tanizaki and others, but I don't see Naomi or the novel as a parody of the modern woman. I see the novel, rather, as a parody of naive Japanese attempts to find a shortcut to a sophisticated, modern, cosmopolitan life, among other things.

I'll look for the Suzuki Michiko article and figure out which works she had in mind, and see if we can’t resolve this issue.

Your filial son,
Ryan

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