Friday, January 30, 2009

Letter to Mom (Or, Crash Course in Modern and Postmodern Literary Theory: The Most Comprehensive Hyperlinked Glossary Ever Assembled)-- Lesson 3

Cluster 7: Psychoanalytic Criticism


OK, in this last installment we’ll be covering clusters 7, 8 and 9. Just in case you'd like to review, here are the first and second installments. I’m in a hurry, so we’re going to have to make this quick.

Cluster 7 is concerned with Freudian literary criticism. Key terms include displacement, projection and introjections, the uncanny, the unconscious, psychological repression, Oedipus complex, condensation, sublimation, and the arche. I'm sure you're familiar with some of these terms from your New Age psychobabble self-help books. Just be careful not to confuse Freudianism with the more popular "vulgar Freudianism."

And if we’re going to talk about Freud, we’ll also have to spend some time on Carl Jung and his analytical psychology and notion of the collective unconscious. Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye borrowed Jung’s collective unconscious and applied it to literature, producing what is now known as archetypal literary criticism. Some key terms of his include the four mythoi (romance, tragedy, comedy and satire) and menippean satire.

Next is Michel Foucault. Key terms: sexuality, archaeology of knowledge, panopticon, episteme (2), and transgression strategy. Again, some of the links might not exactly match up, so you may have to do a little sifting.

Thanks to Slavok Zizek, French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan has been revived in recent years. His key ideas: structure of the psyche (the real, the imaginary, the symbolic), imaginary/symbolic/real, other, name-of-the-father, the gaze, and desire/lack. Also see Slavok Zizek’s “How to Read Lacan,” which is available on this most excellent site.

There’s also Bulgarian-French philosopher and critic Julia Kristeva, whose key terms include: the semiotic and symbolic, phenotext and genotext, and abjection. You’ll also want to look into Melanie Klein’s object-relations theory.
Cluster 8: Postmodernism

Now on to postmodernism. Because postmodernism is more of a historical condition than a particular theory of philosophy or art, I’ve included only two names in this cluster. The first is late French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard, who famously said postmodernism is characterized by a general skepticism toward metanarratives and totalization. The other is American Marxist Frederic Jameson. Here’s a summary of his works; some of his key terms: late capitalism, the political unconscious, the postmodern condition, pastiche, strategy of containment, and ideologeme.
Cluster 9: Feminism and Gender

Finally, there’s feminism and gender. I think H. Bloom refers to this as the "school of resentment." Some of their key terms: sexism, misogyny, homophobia, androgyny, and phallogocentrism. Feminist and gender criticism has its roots in Engels, who was among the first to examine Europe’s patriarchal system. You’ll also want to look at these key terms: patriarchy in feminism, matriarchy, androcentric/gynocentric, and phallocentrism.

Also familiarize yourself with the Bloomsbury group, the Fabian Society (which included E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf), and Kate Millet and the radical feminists. You’ll also want to look into Elain Showalter’s notion of gynocriticism, and critic Toril Moi, and Linda Hutcheon’s narcissistic narrative.

Oh, and don't leave out A.D. Nutall’s notion of transparent criticism (eg, Aristotle's formal descriptions) vs. opaque criticism (eg, Derrida's criticism), and Judith Butler on performativity. And while you’re on Butler you might want to take a look at her writings on Zionism.

Also look at Belgian feminist Luce Irigaray and her logic of the same, and Ecriture feminine. Also: Judith Fetterley's notion of resistant reading, and interrogation.

Lastly, we’ll finish this cluster off with a little gay and lesbian criticism, looking at American critic Eve Sedgwick and her notions of homosocial and homodiegetic storytelling.

This concludes our three-part lesson, Mother. You can go back to your New Age self-help books now, hopefully with a new perspective. To review, here are Lessons 1 and 2.
Your dutiful son,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Comment from Ian Hogarth, Posted in Full

This just in from perennial bully and Beholdmyswarthyface-heckler Ian Hogarth:
Yo, fag, before you start writing another letter to your mommy, check out this interview with misanthropist-philosopher Slavoj Žižek, in which he discusses his 2008 book Violence: Big Ideas, Small Books. The book has greatly influenced my own theory and practice of violence.

Though I used the word “interview,” in reality it’s more of a one-man performance, as the interviewer is conspicuously absent. In fact, it’s entirely possible that there was no interviewer at all, and that like you Žižek invents people to talk to. At any rate, the parts of his performance I find particularly useful are:

1. His division of violence into two groups, subjective and objective. Subjective violence is violence which is experienced personally and directly (i.e., our traditional notion of violence), while objective violence, often invisible, is systemic and symbolic, and is the more powerful and dangerous of the two. Thus, according to Žižek violence is not only that which disrupts an existing order but also that which maintains it.

2. His claim that violence is a form of phatic communication. This struck a particular cord with me, as I’ve always had trouble communicating phatically with people in non-violent ways.

3. His explanation of divine and mythic violence, as exemplified by Gandhi, M.L. King and Heidegger. See, it’s not only bullies like me who employ violence!

4. Also, as a paleoconservative, I agree with his claim that a deep intolerance is inherent in the discourses of tolerance and multiculturalism (eg, the ADL).

5. His call for a “parallax view” and for the rehabilitation of a global politics (“large, collective acts”) prompts me to expand my vision of bullying beyond the schoolyard and blogosphere.

6. Finally, in this debate with British sociologist Steven Lukes, Žižek suggests that in our current context political abstinence is a far more potent form of resistance than empty political gestures, or “pseudo-acts,” such as marching in anti-war protests or joining Free Gaza Now communities on Facebook. One might even compare his notion of inaction-as-resistance to that of Ishikawa Jun, who, as you point out in several of your more readable articles, during the war sought refuge in the old hermetic wenren tradition from China.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Announcement: Intertribal Nomikai

I'll be having drinks tonight in Shimokitazawa with members of the following tribes: Hebraic, Hellenic, Mandinka (W. Africa), Arab, Jomon, Yayoi, and Saxon. I'd like to get at least one Han in there, too, if possible. If anyone would care to join, please contact me (through this blog).

Letter from Mother, and My Response

This just in from Mother.

Shit, thanks for the crash course in modern and postmodern literary theory. It stings to realize it was my own limited intelligence that kept me from perceiving the larger scope of your greatness. I think this media format allows a blossoming I had never dreamed of.

I've become obsessed with this idea of the bit torrent. It takes forever to get the good shit, but I've found an amazing series of video lectures on a wide variety of subjects. I bring this up because of your compendium of literary criticism. I had just obtained an e-book on that same topic, and thought I might share (somehow make available electronically, or "seed" I believe it's called) the "dark matter - dark energy" - if it ever finishes downloading. Don't know if you have the time or interest for physics stuff, but it looks promising.

I'm becoming involved with a company called Ba--tex which processes rock into a material 3 times stronger and 5 times lighter than steel. They bill it as a green technology, but I think they use a shitload of fossil fuels heating up the rock to process it.

I've managed in spite of myself to start stacking up some cash, and even though Dad "lost" my passport I'll be getting another one soon. Would love to come visit you, but I'll probably have to prepare myself in the interim to be able to hold a conversation that lasts longer than 5 minutes.

Ah, see if you can find some cute Japanese boy who wants a visa. Perhaps I can marry him to pay for my trip.

Your mother,


Mother, don't worry. I'm not that great. I use the blog for two reasons: a) to store all the information I should be able to remember but can't, due to my dissociative identity disorder (DID), and b) because I live with my girlfriend and don't have time to seduce girls the old-fashioned way, I use the blog as a surrogate for seduction. (Hisae, if you're reading this, I kid.)

I'll look into bit torrent. The guys at my old dorm were always raving about it (mostly about the porn). What's availabe through it that isn't through regular internet? With Google Books now, practically the whole of human knowledge is available for free (well, not quite yet-- much is still restricted through copyright laws). The internet may eventually destroy all existing institutions of knowledge-- heck, it's already putting an end to old media. We should collaborate and figure out new ways to assist in this destruction.

Keep me posted on your discoveries about the corporeal world. I know nothing about it, and am still not wholly convinced it exists, but keep me updated.

And don't worry about conversation preparation. I haven't spoken to any one other than Hisae and the milkman in months. I try to keep human interaction to a minimum.

Your son,

PS You need a husband? I thought you were married to Father?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Haikara and Bankara

Matt Treyvaud has a new article over at Neojaponisme about the word haikara ("high-collar") and its derivatives, such as bankara ("barbarian-collar"). I think the haikara-bankara dichotomy might help to explain some of the important movements in modern literary history (the naturalists, for instance, seemed way more bankara than haikara). Then again, maybe these terms are meant to refer only to social realities, and are categorically different from the usual set of aesthetic terms. We'll have to ask Matt about this.

Letter to Mom (Or, Crash Course in Modern and Postmodern Literary Theory: The Most Comprehensive Hyperlinked Glossary Ever Assembled)-- Lesson Two

Cluster 4: Post-structuralists and Deconstruction

OK, Mother, here’s the next installment. I’m running out of time, though, so there’ll be even less explaining here than in the previous post. Also, keep in mind that some of the links might not exactly match up with the terms.

Last week we discussed the first three clusters. Today we’ll do the next three, starting with post-structuralism and deconstruction. You’ll recall from last week that structuralism— post-structuralism’s predecessor— and semiotics overlap in many regards. Just to review, take a quick look at this explanation of semiotics.

Sometimes used synonymously, post-structuralism and deconstruction fit under the larger heading of antihumanism. Some of its key figures are Jacque Derrida, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Julia Kristeva. Derrida’s key concepts of deconstruction are presence/absence, supplement, alterity, decentering, play (aka ludism), binary opposition, logocentrism, and margin. Also look into Derrida’s notion of white mythology and sous rature (or under erasure, in English).

Next you’ll want to check out Franco-Bulgarian philosopher Tzvetan Todorov and his theories of literature-as-palimpsest, fantasy and the fantastic, and the uncanny.

Then there are the Yale critics, most notably Paul de Man and Harold Bloom. You’ll want to look into Paul de Man’s notion of “rhetorical reading” and his distrust of formalism. Some of Bloom’s key terms are revisionism, the anxiety of influence, strong poets vs. weak poets, creative misprision, the canon, and agon.

Also look into J. Hillis Miller’s notion of the linguistic moment, and Jean Baudrillard’s silmulacrum.

You’ll also want review J.L. Austin and John Searle’s ideas about speech act, performatives, discourse analysis, and illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. Keep in mind that their theories were heavily influenced by the logical positivism of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Cluster 5: Reception Theory

Cluster 5 is concerned with Reception Theory and three of its major theoreticians: Hans Robert Jauss, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Norman Holland.German scholar Jauss is best known for his reception theory and reader response criticism, and for his notion of the horizons of expectation. German philosopher Gadamer is known for his horizons of meaning, the informed reader, and oppositional reading. Finally, there's American critic Norman Holland, who's also made significant contributions to reader response theory. Also try to remember these basic terms of reader response theory.
Cluster 6: Narratology

For this cluster, we’ll start with Russian formalist Vladimir Propp and his key terms: folklore, protagonist, morphology of the folk tale, and his conception of narratology.

Next is French theorist Gerard Genette, another major theorist of narratology. You’ll want to pay extra attention to his terms focalization and zero focalization (i.e., omniscient narrator), mood and interpolation, paralipsis and apophasis, anachrony (i.e., prolepsis, or narrator’s anticipation) and analepsis (i.e., narrator’s recollection), and verisimilitude. Also have a look at his notion of the focalizer. You'll also need to learn the various kinds of rhetorical tropes (eg, irony, metonymy, metaphor, synechdote).

I’m really running out time so we’re going to have to rush through the rest of the terms: analepsis (flashback) and prolepsis (flashforward), and mimesis and diagesis.

Also have a look at this introduction to genre theory, and some of its terms, including discourse and story, and free indirect discourse (aka, the Uncle Charles principle).

Also, scenic method (dramatic method) and syncretism.

Lastly, you’ll want to get acquainted with Lithuanian linguist Algirdas Julien Greimas and his theory of narratology, and his notion of the actant.

Next week we'll continue with clusters 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Your dutiful son,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Letter to Mom (Or, Crash Course in Modern and Postmodern Literary Theory Using The Most Comprehensive Hyperlinked Glossary Ever Assembled)

Dear Mom,

Remember how you always wanted to take a crash course in critical theory? Well, here’s your chance. I’ve compiled the most comprehensive hyperlinked glossary of modern and postmodern literary theory terms ever assembled. Consider it an early birthday present. (Non-Mother others, feel free to use as well.)

Before we start, you’ll want to read through this very short but concise introduction to the major schools of critical theory (courtesy of Purdue University). Now as I walk you through this, I want you to keep in mind that a) my system of classification is somewhat arbitrary, as many of these categories overlap, and b) I’ve used Wikipedia only when absolutely necessary.

OK. Here we go. I’ve classified the critical orientations into the following ten clusters:
Cluster 1: Marxist, Marxian, New Historicist and Postcolonial Theories
Cluster 2: Formalists, Conservatives, and Anti-Structuralists
Cluster 3: Structuralists and Semiotics
Cluster 4: Post-structuralists and Deconstruction
Cluster 5: Reception Theory
Cluster 6: Narratology
Cluster 7: Pschoanalytic Criticism
Cluster 8: Postmodernism
Cluster 9: Feminism and Gender
Cluster 10: Miscellany

Remember, I’m not here to explain things in any detail; the linked sources will take care of that. Think of me as a kind of Virgil leading you, Dante, through the fiery rings of hell.
Cluster 1: Marxist, Marxian, New Historicist and Postcolonial Theories

Let’s start with Marxism and its key terms: historical materialism, alienation, commodity fetishism, reification, base and superstructure, mediation, praxis, literary mode of production (Terry Eagleton’s term), cultural materialism (Raymond Williams’s term), dialectics, and commodity.

Next, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and his notion of hegemony.

Then there’s the Frankfurt School (1930-1960s), which began in Germany before the war and was absorbed into the American New Left in the 1960s. Its chief task was to apply Marx’s economic theories to the realm of culture: from this we get “cultural Marxism.” Key members included Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, Jurgen Habermas and Leo Lowenthal. The school contributed to the rise of cultural studies and the sociology of literature.

Among German-born Adorno’s important notions are the culture industry, authoritarian personality, and negative dialectics.

Next we have the Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács, who expanded upon Marx’s notion of reification, and helped to develop the Soviet theory of montage.

You’ll also want to take a look at French Marxist Pierre Macherey’s writings on “ideological horizons” and absence.

Next is French philosopher Louis Althusser, whose key terms include “structure in dominance,” overdetermination (originally Freud’s term), ideology and apparatus, problematic, interpellation (subject, subjectivity of ideology), ideological state apparatus (in contrast to repressive state apparatus), and “symptomatic reading.”

We’ll also want to review the aesthetic theories of socialist realism, and the “epic theater” and “distancing [or alienation] effect” (Verfremdungseffekt) of Bertold Brecht:

Now before we move to New Historicism, we’ll want to quickly review the “old historicism” of Hegel, Marx, and Franz Boas. We’ll also want to look at Karl Popper’s critique of historicism.

Also key to understanding New Historicism is American anthropologist Clifford Geertz and his notion of “thick description,” which the New Historicists would later borrow.

Chief among the New Historicists is Stephen Greenblatt, whose key concepts include: [the circulation of] social energy, subversion and containment, negotiations, and the anecdote.

There’s also New Historicist Louis Montrose, who developed the idea of “historicity.”

Next, there are the postcolonial critics. They argue that our notions about the “Orient,” or, more broadly, about the non-Western world, are largely constructions of the Western imperial imagination. Edward Said uses the term “Orientalism” to refer to the discourse employed by Western scholars to explain the non-Western world. Because postcolonial critics argue that this discourse arose out of particular material, social and historical conditions (e.g., Western imperialism, economic and technological domination, etc.), I’ve placed postcolonial theories in this cluster alongside Marxian theories. Aside from Said, other key proponents of this school include Frantz Fanon, Gayatri Spivak and Homi Bhabha.

You’ll also want to review some of the key terms of postcolonialism, including abrogation and appropriation, hybridity, primitivism, the noble savage, slave narratives, and Spivak’s writings on the “subaltern.”

Also see this general glossary of Spivak’s terms, and this summary of Spivak’s seminal essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

Cluster 2: Formalists, Conservatives and Anti-Structuralists

What binds together the varied schools of this cluster is their underlying “formalism,” i.e., a critical orientation toward the text itself, rather than toward the world, author or reader. By my count, the earliest formalists (excepting Aristotle, of course) were the Russian formalists (1914-1930s), whose key members included Roman Jakobson, Victor Shklovsky and Mikhail Bakhtin, each of whom was associated with the Moscow linguistic circle (active from 1915-1924). Key concepts developed by this group include: skaz, heteroglossia, foregrounding, thematology, literariness, defamiliarization, fabula (story) and sjuzhet (plot), and deviation (from normal speech).

Bakhtin, the most influential critic of this group, developed the following key concepts: dialogic/dialogism, polyphony, assimilation, microdialogue (i.e., internal dialogue), utterance, popular culture, polyglossia, polyphonic, Menippean satire, monoglossia (heteroglossia), and embedding. Make sure you read each of those articles carefully, Mother.

The American version of the Russian Formalists— the New Critics, who reigned from the early 1920s through the 1960s— emphasized close reading, unity, intrinsic criticism, explication, analytical criticism, impersonality, organicism, and irony. Two of the school’s key proponents, William K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, warned us not to fall prey to the intentional fallacy. Also associated with this school were F.R. Leavis (his followers are called Leavisites), Cleanth Brooks, and I.A. Richards.

Brooks is remembered for his work The Well-Wrought Urn, in which he explains the importance of paradox.

I.A. Richards is remembered for, among things, his advocacy of practical criticism, and for his division of the metaphor into two parts: tenor (eg, world) and vehicle (eg, stage).

We should also keep in mind that it was proto-New Critic Irving Babbitt who revived the liberal humanist tradition of Matthew Arnold, sparking the movement that came to be known was as New Humanism. The works of Lionel Trilling and F.R. Leavis can be seen as extensions of this earlier movement.

As mentioned, Aristotle was a sort of proto-Formalist. His division of the elements of tragedy into mythos (plot), peripateia (reversal), anagnorisis (recognition), hamartia (tragic flaw), catharsis (purification), mimesis (imitation), and subplot served as a sort of rulebook for dramatists during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. However, in the 19th century the Romantics began to question some of his assumptions, and by the 20th century many modernist writers came to reject two of Aristotle’s key concepts, plot and mimesis. Formed in the mid-1930s, the Chicago School of Critics sought to revive Aristotle’s reputation and re-implement his theories.

The most prominent critics of the Chicago school were Ronald Crane and Wayne Booth. In his The Rhetoric of Fiction, Booth develops some of his key concepts regarding rhetorical criticism, including his notions of pluralism and the unreliable and naïve narrators.

Finally, I should point out that, unlike their Russian counterparts, the American Formalists (i.e., New Critics, Chicago School critics) emphasized pragmatic and practical criticism over theoretical criticism.

Cluster 3: Structuralism and Semiotics

Now on to Structuralism, which began with the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. A member of the Geneva School of Structural Linguistics, Saussure’s ideas about signified and signifier, referrer and referent, langue (linguistic system) and parole (verbal utterance), and diachronic and synchronic relations revolutionized the way we view language. It might even be said that all subsequent developments have been but extensions of his theories.

One American semiotician particularly under the influence of Saussure was Charles Peirce, who developed his own theories about the index, icon and symbol.

Founded in 1929 and disbanded in 1938, the Prague linguistic circle included Russian émigrés Roman Jakobson, Nikolai Trubetzkoy, as well as Czech literary scholars Rene Wellek and Jan Mukarovsky.

For now, you’ll want to focus on Jakobson’s key ideas about poetic function, metaphor and metonymy (aka, synecdoche; metaphor being typical of romantic and symbolist writers, metonymy of realist writers), and contiguity.

Finally, there’s French critic Roland Barthes, who’s a little harder to pin down. Some say he’s more post-structuralist than structuralist, others say he’s equally both. I’ll put him right here on the border: at the end of the structuralist cluster and the beginning of the post-structuralists (continued in my next post). For now, Mother, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with his work, S/Z, as well as with some of his more important terms such as doxa, demythologizing, death of author, play, text, ecriture, readerly text vs. writerly text, closure (closed text vs. open text), writing degree zero (or, zero degree of writing), narratology, ecrivant, and lexia (i.e., arbitrary excerpts).

In the next post, Mother, we’ll continue with Clusters 4, 5, and 6.

Your dutiful son,

Monday, January 19, 2009

More On Palimpsests

This just in from Josh Lander:

While reading up on Halakha Talmudic law today I came across a passage from Baudelaire that reminded me of your recent post about tests, brains, memory and palimpsests. Here’s what the good poet had to say on the matter:
What is the human brain, if not an immense and natural palimpsest? My brain is a palimpsest, as yours is too, reader. Innumerable layers of ideas and feelings have fallen one after another on your brain, as gently as light. It seems as if each were swallowing up the previous one. But in reality none has perished […] Forgetting is only momentary therefore; and in such solemn circumstances, in death perhaps, and generally in the intense excitement generated by opium, the whole immense, complicated palimpsest of memory unfolding in an instant, with all its superimposed layers of dead feelings, mysteriously embalmed in what we call oblivion […] Just as every action, thrown into the whirlwind of universal action, is in itself irrevocable and irreparable, an abstraction of its possible results, so each thought is ineffaceable. The palimpsest of memory is indestructible.
-Charles Baudelaire, Les Paradis Artificels (1860)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ishikawa Jun and the Discourses of Modernity

Mabel Callahan of Dublin asks:
What exactly are you working on, because it seems like you just wander the streets of Tokyo all day like some kind of debauched flâneur, occasionally writing little stupid entries in your blog?

Well, Mable, building upon the ideas presented in my article 「石川淳の『江戸人の発想法について』と『明月珠』」, I plan to spend the next three years exploring a) the subject of Japanese “modanizumu” within the context of the various discourses about modernity and b) the modanisuto project of Ishikawa Jun (1899-1987), a writer who drew both from Sino-Japanese traditions and European modernism, thus making him an appropriate symbol for Japan’s heterogeneous modanizumu. Also, as I am deeply interested in translation, I hope to spend part of my time studying the art of translation under S-sensei and translating several of Ishikawa Jun’s shorter works.

What is modanizumu (which began in the 1920s and lasted through the 1940s) in the Japanese context? The current understanding of the term seems insufficient, as it is too often only narrowly applied to writers like Yokomitsu Riichi and Itō Sei who explicitly implemented the techniques of European modernists, while writers like Tanizaki and Kawabata are often tossed into the “traditional” category. But as any one who has read Asakusa kurenaidan (1930) knows, Kawabata himself experimented heavily with modernist techniques, which he continued to employ and refine throughout his so-called “traditionalist” stage. Tanizaki, too, continued to seek innovative methods for constructing his novels, even after he was thought to have “returned to Japan.” That “traditionalists” Tanizaki and Kawabata in fact both wrote “modernist literature” throughout their careers, and that “modernist” Ishikawa Jun in fact drew heavily from the Sino-Japanese tradition shows that the lines between “traditional” and “modern”—or, for that matter, modern and anti-modern (kindai and hankindai)— are extremely blurry, and that a fundamental reassessment of categories is needed. To do this, I will first need to address the following five groups of questions:

1. How was modanizumu different from kindaika? Are they synonymous? Or does the “spirit of modanizumu” predate kindaika and Westernization, as Ishikawa suggests in 『江戸人の発想法について』?

2. Next, what was modanizumu’s relation to the dominant literary ideologies of Meiji and Taisho, namely, naturalism, realism, mimesis, and later, the shi-shishōsetsu and shinkyō shōsetsu? Should modanizumu be seen as a heterodoxy reacting against these orthodoxies? Here I will specifically focus on how the anti-Shiga Naoya movement revolutionized the modernist buntai or literary style, and how it developed into the post-war Shingesaku-ha of Ishikawa Jun, Sakaguchi Ango, Dazai Osamu, Oda Sakunosuke, and others.

3. What was modanizumu’s position vis-à-vis Japan’s own literary past? Was modanizumu a rejection of the “traditional” forms of Japanese literature, or did it in fact align itself with certain elements from its past? Is the case of Ishikawa Jun’s modanizumu— which drew heavily from the techniques of Edo haikai and kyōka poetry—the exception or the norm?

4. What was modanizumu’s relation to the modernisms of Europe and America? How was it influenced? How did they appropriate new formal innovations into their own works? Were they effective? And most importantly, should Japanese modanizumu be seen as only that which possessed the characteristics of European modernism? Or are there not in fact numerous aspects of Japanese modanizumu that have nothing to do with what went on in the West?

5. And finally, how was modanizumu positioned politically? What social and political movements was it associated with? How did it react, for example, to the years of militarism and war? Did it serve as a form of resistance?
Though I still have much to explore, during the course of my research I expect to discover the three following things: a) modanizumu was not a single movement, but rather a broad conglomeration of writers and literary movements; b) the modern-traditional (or kindai-hankindai) false distinction confuses more than it clarifies, and thus should be either refined and broadened or discarded altogether; and c) the definition of modernism must be expanded beyond the typical Euro-American-centric definition in order to account for its plurality.

The second half of my project will deal with the “modernist aesthetic” of Ishikawa Jun. Here I will explore how it was informed by: a) European modernism, and b) the native “tradition,” particularly the heterodoxical traditions of the Edo period, which served throughout his career as an endless wellspring of new methods and ideas. Concerning a), I will examine how European modernist writers, particularly Andre Gide and Anatole France, provided Ishikawa with a new range of narrative techniques, including the novel-as-commentary-on-the-novel style of which Gide was a master. I will look at how Ishikawa discovered a new modanisuto style (buntai) by translating works such as Gide’s L’Immoraliste (1902) (背徳者、1924) and Les Caves du Vatican (1899) (法王庁の抜け穴, 1928) .

Concerning b), I will examine how much of what is considered “modern” about Ishikawa’s was in fact derived from Ota Nanpo and other Edo writers, who provided Ishikawa with new ways of understanding author, text, audience, world and tradition. An important key to understanding Ishikawa’s relationship with these Edo writers is his 1943 essay 「江戸人の発想法について」, in which he argues that the Edoites’ genius was in their ability to adapt the literary tradition to their contemporary world by using “transformative devices” (tenkan no sōsa), such as mitate, yatsushi, haikaika, and zokka. Ishikawa’s own literature—like that of Joyce, Eliot, and other European Modernists— can be seen as a similar project of transforming the past into a form that suits the present. Looking back, one can see that the ideas discussed in his 1943 essay have much in common with the ideas later developed by Structuralist and Post-structuralist theorists. Ishikawa’s discussion of honshidori, for example, has much in common with Harold Bloom’s notions of “misprision” and “anxiety of influence.” In describing the desirability of authorial anonymity (jinkaku mumei) and mystification (tōkai buri), too, Ishikawa seems to be describing something similar to what Roland Barthes later elicited in his famous essay “The Death of the Author.” It seems that by discovering a part of the Japanese literary tradition that had been (until the late 1930s) mostly ignored, Ishikawa was able to see beyond his own age and lead the way toward new forms of writing.

Finally, I will examine Ishikawa’s modanizumu under the rubric of “resistance literature,” focusing on his pre-1945 works. The term “resistance literature” is usually limited to proletariat writings, and, as a consequence, writers like Ishikawa who are closer to the Sino-Japanese wenren 文人 tradition than to Marx are often overlooked. Finally, I will look at Ishikawa’s post-war works such as Taka (1953) , Shion monogatari (1956), Aratama (1963), and others and explore how Ishikawa’s understanding of the problem of tōgenkyō— or utopias— developed through the years.

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.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Philosopher Slavoj Zizeck on Democracy Now

Related to the last post: Josh Lander sends me this video of Zizeck talking about recuperation and incorporation, the failures of 1968, the end of history, masturbation, phatic communication, the Iraq war, etc. And Jarvis32 sends me this link to the 7-part documentary, "Zizek!" Thanks to both.

Letter to Mom (Or, Ryan Discovers the Already Known and Points Out the Obvious)


I first saw Keith Olbermann’s show on MSNBC about two years ago. My initial impression was, wow, poignant criticism is possible in the mainstream media. For a while, my faith was restored. But as I grew familiar with his usual topics and his shrill rhetorical style, I began to suspect that this wasn’t real criticism at all, that it was the illusion of criticism. In other words, the mainstream media had found a way to incorporate into their narrative certain superficial elements of real criticism (of, for example, U.S. foreign policy), but only after the criticism had been sanitized and emptied of its contents. Thus, certain subjects, indeed the most important ones, remained either taboo or misrepresented.

Though I was vaguely aware of this phenomenon, I had no idea until yesterday that a name actually existed for it. Actually, there are two names for it: “recuperation” and “incorporation.” According to my 『文学批評用語辞典』 dictionary here beside me (sorry, I can’t find the English definitions anywhere):

And “incorporation”:

You see, Mom, Marxism can come in handy from time to time.

Your dutiful son,

Today’s Sad News

Just received news of William Tyler’s tragically sudden and early death. It’s now up to us to pick up where he left off.
Dear Colleagues,

It is with great regret that I pass on the following notice (Jan. 3) of the death of Bill Tyler:

“William Jefferson Tyler, Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University, following a brief illness. Bill was a graduate of Kokusai Kirisutokyo/International Christian University and received his doctorate from Harvard University. Since arriving at Ohio State in 1991, he has been an active member of the department, the College and the University having served on various committees. A specialist in modern Japanese literature, he recently published Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938, a volume that he edited and compiled for the University of Hawai'i Press. Over the years, he has gained an international reputation for his translations of valued Japanese texts into English including The Legend of Gold and Other Stories and The bodhisattva, or Samantabhadra. Throughout his career, he has received recognition for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, the Japan Foundation and Fulbright Hays.”

Bill was a truly fine teacher and colleague.

Philip Brown, Professor of History
Ohio State University

Monday, January 5, 2009

Letter to Mom (Or, On Tests and Palimpsests)


I suck at timed examinations, always have. Written, multiple choice, oral, aural, rectal, you name it. I suck at all of them. I’ve often wondered why this is. Am I slow? Perhaps. Did I not have proper training as a kid? Possibly. An inevitable side-effect of racial miscegenation (you being Armenian and Dad being Scotch-Irish)? Could be. Performance anxiety? Could be a bit of that, too. (As a kid, you'll remember, I used to blank out at piano recitals.) Or is it that my brain, like history, is a thick palimpsest made up of so many layers of recorded and half-recorded events and sensations and thoughts, and of the subsequent accumulation of memories of those events, sensations and thoughts, that to dredge up the information needed to answer a question like

would require far more time than the darkly hooded testgivers would ever allow? Would that this were the case. Still, it makes for a good excuse, so I think I’ll use it if I fail my exam this month.

Your filial son,

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


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,

Sunday, January 4, 2009

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


Watching Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence” (1993) last night I kept thinking of Tanizaki’s Naomi (1924), which can be read, I’m told, as a parody of works like Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (1920) that adhere to the following formula: a modern man of liberal persuasion must choose between a “marriage of love” (ren’ai kekkon) to a modern, “liberated” girl and a “political marriage” (seiryaku kekkon) to a conventional girl of society. The choice (now considered to be a false conundrum) is ultimately between the discovery of his “authentic self” and the passive acceptance of his “socially-determined self.”

In Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, the modern man is Newland Archer, who is so infatuated with the intelligent but disreputable Ellen Olenska that he nearly throws away his secured social position and future in order to be with her. Ultimately, however, Newland gives up his dreams of an “authentic” life with the free-spirited Ellen in favor of a pre-scripted one with the pretty but vapid May Wellen.

The story is told by a third-person narrator (presumably Wharton herself) who is so close to the perspective of Newland that we see things only through his filter. What we don’t know, for example, is a) what does Ellen really think of her relationship with Newland, and b) to what extent does the Ellen of Newland’s fantasies correspond to the real Ellen?

I suspect that Tanizaki (assuming he'd read the novel) would have been highly skeptical of the “authenticity” of Newland and Ellen’s supposed love and, more broadly, of the whole discourse surrounding notions of “progress,” “liberation,” “authentic self” and even “romantic love.” He would, I presume, have seen the Naomi-esque Ellen as a highly perceptive, promiscuous and sadistic temptress who gets her kicks from toying with men like Newland who, albeit subtly, reveal a penchant for masochism.

Yet this by no means implies a moral judgment of Ellen’s character: if anything, her ability to manipulate Newland by anticipating and acting out his narcissistic misreading of her shows that she is by far the more imaginative and complex figure. I suspect that the idea for Naomi began as a germ that grew out of such skeptical readings of novels like The Age of Innocence.

Perhaps such skepticism toward this formula is indicative of a more general tendency among the Japanese to see relationships in terms of their inherent power structure. Just think, when’s the last time a casual acquaintance in the U.S. asked if you were sadistically or masochistically inclined? Here it’s a perfectly normal conversation-starter.

Was Edith Wharton herself aware of this possible interpretation? Who knows. (Not me.) Didn’t Wimsatt and Beardsley warn us not to speculate about what the author intended? Still, one can’t help but suspect that Wharton— a writer keenly aware of the discrepancy between the “hieroglyphics” of social interaction and the stuff of inner experience— must have known that Newland and Ellen were an impossibility from the start, that their supposed “connection” was no more than a misperception on Newland’s part, and that Ellen, knowing this, simply decided to play along with it.

Your dutiful son,


This just in from Jarvis32:










Saturday, January 3, 2009

On Takahashi Gen'ichirō's John Lennon Vs. the Martians

This just in from Dr. Nabil al-Nasnimi:

It’s me again, Nabil al-Tasnimi. I have another favor to ask. I have a presentation tomorrow in Tokyo, but I’m still in Cairo, and haven’t the time to prepare anything. The presentation is supposed to be on Takahashi Gen’ichir
ō’s novel, John Lennon Vs. the Martians, and must be in Japanese. I was hoping you could put something together for me. Your services will be remunerated. Thank you, Nabil al-Tasnimi

Sure thing. Here are my notes, which contain several obvious and/or unclear points, some of which you might be able to use in your talk. Feel free to reorder— even rewrite— the thing. Also, you might want to add some specific examples from the novel, as there aren’t many here. Oh, and I should warn you that my point about agency and ideology (inspired by Professor Marc Yamada's talk in Tokyo late last month) is not at all developed, so you might want to discard that section altogether. I hate to hand it over in this state, but this is all I had time to put together. Hope it helps. Regards, Beholdmyswarthyface

はじめに 著者経歴、『ジョン・レノン対火星人』出版歴

1951年に広島生まれ。1981年、『さようなら、ギャングたち』で群像新人長篇小説賞優秀賞受賞。1988年、『優雅で感傷的な日本野球』で第一回三島由紀夫賞。著書に『虹の彼方に』、『ジョン・レノン対火星人』、『ペンギン村に陽は落ちて』、『日本文学盛衰史』など(詳しくはshinchosha.comを参考に)。『日本文学盛衰史』で伊藤整文学賞を受賞。小説の他、文学、政治、競馬などに関するエッセイ、翻訳書など、著書多数。また雑誌連載も常に複数誌 にわたる。

『ジョン・レノン対火星人』(1985)。題目はおそらく、米国歴史学者John Wienerが1982年3月の『New Republic』に掲載した記事、「John Lennon Versus the FBI」に由来しているのではないかと考えられる。本作品の出版歴は以下のようです。


一  パロディ or パスティーシュ?

この二つの用語の違いについて『コロンビア大学現代文学文化批評用語辞典』は以下のように述べています。「パスティ―シュという概念は、パロディに見られる喜劇的乖離の間隔を伴わない様々なスタイルの模倣を指す。そういったパスティ―シュは、「無表情なパロディ(blank parody)」という特にポストモダン的なパロディの一種である。この用語は「。。。」おもにポストモダンの文化の議論において広く流通することになった。ジェィムソンによれば、パスティ―シュは、自己生成的なスタイルが過去のものとなった時代におけるパロディの結末である。すべてのモダニズムの偉大な実践者たちは、何らかの意味で明確な個人的スタイルの創造者であったが、そのスタイルは模倣されることが可能であり従って暗黙のうちに茶化されるものであった「。。。」そのパロディのかわりを、非パロディ、すなわちパスティ―シュという新しい様式が占めるのである」(307)。これを念頭に置きながら『ジョン・レノン対火星人』はどちらなのかを見てみましょう。

* ヒューマニスト的な読みへの抵抗





* それで、『ジョン・レノン対火星人』はどっちかよ!


* 私小説のパロディ



二 現実界と象徴界の混同


* つまり、時間性・歴史性の欠如


* あらゆる境界が曖昧に


* 平坦さと無深層

ポストモダニズムでは遠近法(ジェイムソンの言葉では“the depth model”)が消滅される。すべてのものは表象、つまりシミュラークラに過ぎず、そしてその表象の原型はどこにも見つからない。ハイモダニズムにおける三次元性は二次元性に変わり、表面の後ろに現実があるという前提が排除された。客観現実や真実が消えたその跡には、イデオロギやナラティヴしかない。

* 感情の消失

感情に溢れた告白的な小説よりも我々のこころに響くのはむしろポルノ小説であると高橋に示唆されているようである。一方、普段は無頓着で無関心である「日本のすばらしい戦争」のように時にして大暴れたりする精神分裂的な傾向も見られる。引用:33.5; 23.9-19;

三 イデオロギーからエージェンシを回収すること


* 政治や文壇の抑圧に抵抗する文学



  おわりに ポストモダンでありながらポストモダンを乗り越えた『ジョン・レノン対火星人』



Sim, Stuart. The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism. 2001.
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. 1991. (6-17).
川口喬一編. 『最新文学批評用語辞典』. 研究社出版. 1998.
スチュアータ・シム編.『ポストマニズムとは何か』. 2002.
ジェイムソン・フレドリック. 『近代という不思議・現在の存在論についての試論』.こぶし書房. 2005.
高橋源一郎. 『ジョン・レノン対火星人』. 講談社文芸文庫. 2004.