Monday, December 28, 2009

"Widening the Discourse of the Shishōsetsu in Modern Japanese Literature"

This just in from Bethany Doublename:

Dear Beholdmyswarthyface,

My people have informed me that you and Sally Suzuki are holding the first annual Beholdmyswarthyface Japan Studies Conference sometime next month. Corbin Clausewitz,
Cresti Yerfi, and I, Bethany Doublename, would love to participate, so please take a look at our panel proposal and get back to us. Thanks.
Broadly defined, the shishōsetsu (or "I-novel") has been and continues to be the predominant mode of narration in modern Japanese literature. Even writers who assume an oppositional stance toward the form often end up employing—perhaps unconsciously—the very literary methods of the I-novelists. Our panel will focus on five modern writers—Iwano Hōmei, Tayama Katai, Shimazaki Tōson, Ishikawa Jun, and Takahashi Gen'ichirō—the last two of whom are generally not regarded as part of the "I-novel" tradition yet who can still be historically situated within its discourse. In the first paper, Bethany Doublename will examine the interwar theoretical works of Ishikawa Jun in relation to the I-novel problematic. In the second paper, Corbin Clausewitz will explore late Meiji-era readers' reception of three works by Tayama Katai, Shimazaki Tōson, and Iwano Hōmei. And in the third paper, Ian Hogarth III will look at postmodern Japanese fiction in terms of this problematic, focusing on Takahashi Gen'ichirō.
1. First Paper (Bethany Doublename)

"Ishikawa Jun as Theorist: His Interwar Writings"
Like Natsume Sōseki, Ishikawa Jun (1899-1987) was endowed with a highly theoretical mind, and his fiction might be said to be an extension of his theoretical writings. Yet little attention has been paid to these important works. In this paper, I will show how Ishikawa Jun's interwar critical works such as "Edojin no hassohō ni tsuite," "Mori Ōgai," and "Bungaku taigai" are key to understanding his fiction and, more broadly, his theory of literature. Focusing specifically on issues related to the I-novel problematic (i.e., questions of subjectivity, author, persona, voice, and author-reader contract), I will show how his penetrating readings of Mori Ōgai, Edo poetry, and French modernist novelists provided him with a perspective (both aesthetic and political) that set him apart from writers of his day. Yet despite his professed preference for self-mystification, intertextuality, and parody and his distrust of "realism," confession, and the supposed "transparency" of language, Ishikawa's writings still share much with I-novelists in terms of narrative practices, and it is this apparent contradiction which I also plan to explore.
2. Second Paper (Corbin Clausewitz)
"The Ignoble I: Authors, Authenticity and Immorality in Shishōsetsu"
Shishōsetsu, often translated into English as "I-novel," is a literary style that encourages readers to blur the lines that divide reality and fiction, novelists and narrators. Indeed, we know that many of the events upon which the important late Meiji-era shishōsetsu (Tayama Katai's Futon, Shimazaki Tōson's Hansei and Iwano Hōmei's Tandeki, to name three) are based actually took place. But there is one more feature shared by these three notorious novels that is worthy of discussion: their conspicuous depictions of various forms of transgression. Katai's work is a confession of lust for his young pupil; Tōson describes his affair with his niece; and Hōmei writes unabashedly of his dalliance with a local geisha. But what did contemporary readers make of these scandalous episodes? What did they make of these authors? In my presentation, I will examine public responses to these three sensational novels, and, in doing so, will attempt to highlight how private scandal was channeled into the public discourse in each case.

3. Third Paper
(Ian Hogarth III)

"Postmodernism, Takahashi Gen'ichirō's John Lennon Versus the Martians, and the Legacy of Shishōsetsu"
My paper will explore the state of shishōsetsu in contemporary Japanese literature, focusing on Takahashi Gen'ichirō's John Lennon Versus the Martians. While it is often stated that shishōsetsu died out with the rise of proletarian literature in early Shōwa period, certain aspects of the genre have continued into the present. Takahashi Gen'ichirō's John Lennon Versus the Martians is a quintessential postmodern work that at first glance seems to bear little resemblance to the earlier shishōsetsu of Tayama Katai or Shimazaki Tōson. Yet its first-person mode of narrationwhich fuses together author and narratoris undoubtedly a technique borrowed, perhaps unwittingly, from the shishōsetsu tradition. I will examine the significance of the author and narrator's unification in this postmodern age in which the author's subjectivity—even existence—has been radically discarded, and how this relates to the tradition of the shishōsetsu in Japan. I also think it will be useful to expand our analysis to include a comparison with Richard Brautigan and other late 20th-century American writers who have had a major influence on Takahashi.

[And, in Japanese . . .]
本 発表は高橋源一郎の『ジョン・レノン対火星人』を中心に、「現代文学における私小説」という問題を考察する。「私小説」という概念は、狭義においては昭和 初期、プロレタリア文学の隆盛とともに衰退していった一ジャンルといわれるが、日本文学におけるその影響は現代文学に至るまで連綿と続いていると見ること もできる。高橋源一郎の『ジョン・レノン対火星人』は日本におけるポストモダン文学の代表的作品であり、「私小説」というジャンルからは一見最も遠いよう に思われるが、一人称で、作家高橋と語り手が同一に見えるように書くその語り方は、私小説の伝統の影響下にある語り方である。本発表においては、作者の主 体性を積極的に放棄するものであるとされるポストモダン文学において、作者と語り手の同一視をうながすような私小説の語りが持ち込まれることにはどのよう な意味があり、それは日本文学における私小説の伝統とどのように関わっているのかを考察する。その際、高橋が影響を受けたとされるブローティガンなどアメ リカのポストモダン作家との比較を行うことがより広い視座をもたらし、有効であると考える。

1 comment:

Sally Suzuki said...

Bethany Doublename, et.al.,

Your panel topic sounds fascinating, but I'm afraid you've been misinformed. We have no plans to hold a Beholdmyswarthyface Japan Studies Conference--in fact, this is the first I'd ever heard of it. But good luck finding a conference to host your panel!