Saturday, December 22, 2012

Translation Activity


LIT 365: Morrison

First, identify each of the following famous opening passages, then check your answers using the answer key below. Next, translate each passage, then compare your versions with the corresponding extant translations below.

1. 行く河の流れは絶えずして、しかも、もとの水にあらず。よどみに浮ぶうたかたは、かつ消え、かつ結びて、久しくとどまりたる例なし。世の中にある人とすみかと、またかくのごとし。

2. 吾輩は猫である。名前はまだない。どこで生まれたか頓と見当がつかぬ。何でも薄暗いじめじめした所でニャーニャー泣いていた事だけは記憶している。吾輩はここで始めて人間というものを見た。

3.  親譲りの無鉄砲で子供の時から損ばかりしている。小学校にいる時分学校の二階から飛び降りて一週間ほど腰を抜かした事はある。

4.腕組をして枕元に坐わっていると、仰向きに寝た女が、静かな声でもう死にますと云う。女は長い髪を枕に敷いて、輪郭の柔わらかな瓜実顔をその中に横たえている。

5. そのころはまだ人々が「愚」と云う尊い徳を持っていて、世の中が今のように激しく軋み合わない時分であった。殿様や若旦那の長閑な顔が曇らぬように、御殿女中や華魁の笑いの種が尽きぬようにと、饒舌を売るお茶坊主だの幇間だのという職業が、立派に存在して行けた程、世の中がのんびりしていた時分であった。

6. はその人を常に先生と呼んでいた。だからここでもただ先生と書くだけで本名は打ち明けない。これは世間を憚かる遠慮というよりも、その方が私にとって自然だからである。私はその人の記憶を呼び起すごとに、すぐ「先生」といいたくなる。筆を執っても心持は同じ事である。よそよそしい頭文字などはとても使う気にならない。

7.或日の暮方の事である。一人の下人が、羅生門の下で雨やみを待っていた。広い門の下にはこの男の外に誰もいない。唯、所々丹塗(ニヌリ)の剥げた、大きな円柱に、蟋蟀(キリギリス)が一匹とまっている。

8.山の手線の電車に跳飛ばされて怪我をした。その後養生に、一人で但馬の城崎温泉へ出掛けた。背中の傷が脊椎カリエスになれば致命傷になりかねないが、そんな事はあるまいと医者に云われた。自分は脊椎カリエスになるだけは助かった。

9. さようでございます。あの死骸を見つけたのは、わたしに違いございません。わたしは今朝いつもの通り、裏山の杉を伐りに参りました。すると山陰 の藪の中に、あの死骸があったのでございます。あった処でございますか? それは山科 やましな の駅路からは、四五町ほど隔たって居りましょう。竹の中に痩 せ杉の交 まじ った、人気 のない所でございます。

10. 私が自分の祖父のある事を知ったのは、私の母が産後の病気で死に、その後二月程経って不意に祖父が私の前に現れてきた、その時であった。私の六歳の時であった。

11. えたいの知れない不吉な塊が私の心を始終圧えつけていた。焦燥(しょうそう)と云おうか、嫌悪と云おうか酒を飲んだあとに宿酔(フツカヨイ)があるように、酒を毎日飲んでいると宿酔に相当した時期がやって来る。それが来たのだ。

12.  国境の長いトンネルを抜けると雪国であった。夜の底が白くなった。信号所に汽車が止まった。 向側の座席から娘が立って来て、島村の前のガラス窓を落とした。雪の冷気が流れ込んだ。娘は窓いっぱいに乗り出して、遠くへ叫ぶように、 「駅長さあん、駅長さあん」。

13.桜の花が咲くと人々は酒をぶらさげたり団子をたべて花の下を歩いて絶景だの春ランマンだのと浮かれて陽気になりますが、これは嘘です。なぜ嘘かと申しますと、桜の花の下へ人がより集って酔っ払ってゲロを吐いて喧嘩 けんか して、これは江戸時代からの話で、大昔は桜の花の下は怖しいと思っても、絶景だなどとは誰も思いませんでした。

14.  永いあいだ、私は自分が生まれたときの光景を見たことがあると言い張っていた。それを言い出すたびに大人たちは笑い、しまいには自分がからかわれているのかと思って、この蒼ざめた子供らしくない子供の顔を、かるい憎しみの色さした目つきで眺めた。

15. 幼時から父は、私によく、金閣のことを語った。私の生まれたのは、舞鶴から東北の、日本海へ突き出たうらさびしい岬である。父の故郷はそこではなく、舞鶴東郊の志楽である。懇望されて、僧籍に入り、辺鄙な岬の寺の住職になり、その地で妻をもらって、私という子を設けた。

16. 八月のある日、男が一人、行方不明になった。休暇を利用して、汽車で半日ばかり海岸に出掛けたきり、消息をたってしまったのだ。捜索願も、新聞広告も、すべて無駄におわった。

*Answer Key: 1. 鴨長明「方丈記」( 1212) 2. 夏目漱石『吾輩は猫である』(1905) 3. 夏目漱石『坊ちゃん』(1906) 4. 夏目漱石「夢十夜」(1908) 5. 谷崎潤一郎「刺青」(1910) 6. 夏目漱石『こころ』(1914) 7. 芥川龍之介「羅生門」(1915) 8. 志賀直哉「城の崎にて」(1917) 9. 芥川龍之介「藪の中」(1922) 10. 志賀直哉『暗夜行路』(1921) 11. 梶井基次郎「檸檬」( 1925) 12. 川端康成『雪国』(1935) 13. 坂口安吾「桜の森の満開の下」(1947)
14. 三島由紀夫『仮面の告白』(1949) 15. 三島由紀夫『金閣寺』(1956) 16. 安部公房『砂の女』(1962)
Corresponding Extant Translations

1. “The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world.” (Chambers, “An Account of a Ten-Foot-Square Hut,” 2007)

2. “I am a cat. As yet I have no name. I’ve no idea where I was born. All I remember is that I was miaowing in a dampish dark place when, for the first time, I saw a human being.” (Wilson and Ito, I Am a Cat, 1972)

3. “A great loser have I been ever since a child, having a rash, daring spirit, a spirit I inherited from my ancestors. When a primary-school boy, I jumped down from the second story of the schoolhouse, and had to lie abed about a week.” (Sasaki, Botchan, 1922)

4. “This is the first dream I dreamed. I was sitting at her bedside with my arms folded. The woman lying on her back said quietly that she was going to die. Her long hair lay on the pillow softly framing her oval face.” (Lorenz and Kashima , Ten Nights’ Dreams, “The First Night,” 2000)

5. “It was an age when men honored the noble virtue of frivolity, when life was not such a harsh struggle as it is today. It was a leisurely age, an age when professional wits could make an excellent livelihood by keeping rich or wellborn young gentlemen in a cloudless good humor and seeing to it that the laughter of Court ladies and geisha was never stilled.” (Hibbett, “The Tattooer,” 1963)

6. “I always called him ‘Sensei.’ I shall therefore refer to him simply as ‘Sensei,’ and not by his real name. It is not because I consider it more discreet, but it is because I find it more natural that I do so. Whenever the memory of him comes back to me snow, I find that I think of him as ‘Sensei’ still. And with pen in hand, I cannot bring myself to write of him in any other way.” (McClellan, Kokoro, 1957)

7. “It was a chilly evening. A servant of a samurai stood under the Rashomon, waiting for a break in the rain. No one else was under the wide gate. On a thick column, its crimson lacquer rubbed off here and there, perched a cricket.” (Hibbett, “Rashomon,” 1952)

8. “I had been hit by a train on the Tokyo loop line and I went alone to Kinosaki hot spring to convalesce. If I developed tuberculosis of the spine it could be fatal, but the doctor did not think I would.” (Seidensticker, “At Kinosaki,” 1956)

9. “Yes, sir. Certainly, it was I who found the body. This morning, as usual, I went to cut my daily quota of cedars, when I found the body in a grove in a hollow in the mountains. The exact location? About 150 meters off the Yamashina stage road. It’s an out-of-the-way grove of bamboo and cedars.” (Hibbett, “In a Grove,” 1952)

10. “It was about two months after my mother died in childbirth that I first laid eyes on my grandfather. I was six years old at the time.”  (McClellan, A Dark Night’s Passing, 1976)

11. “An ominous lump of character unknown placed continuous pressure on my heart. Was it frustration? Disgust? Like a hangover after drinking alcohol, but a hangover that comes from daily drinking. And it had come.” (Pastel-rouge, “Lemon,” 2010)

12. “The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky. The train pulled up at a signal stop. A girl who had been sitting on the other side of the car came over and opened the window in front of Shimamura. The snowy cold poured in.” (Seidensticker, Snow Country, 1956)

13. “Nowadays, when the cherries bloom, people think it’s time for a party. They go under the trees and eat and drink and mouth the old sayings about spring and pretty blossoms, but it’s all one big lie. I mean, it wasn't until Edo, maybe a couple of hundred years ago, that people started crowding under the cherry blossoms to the really old drink and puke and fight.” (Rubin, “In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom,” 1997)

14. “For many years I claimed I could remember things seen at the time of my own birth. Whenever I said so, the grownups would laugh at first, but then, wondering if they were not being tricked, they would look distastefully at the pallid face of that unchildlike child.” (Weatherby, Confessions of a Mask, 1958)

15. “Ever since my childhood, Father had often spoken to me about the Golden Temple. My birthplace was a lonely cape that projects into the Sea of Japan northeast of Maizuru. Father, however, was not born there, but at Shiraku in the eastern suburbs of Maizuru.” (Morris, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, 1959)

16. “One day in August a man disappeared. He had simply set out for the seashore on a holiday, scarcely half a day away by train, and nothing more was ever heard of him. Investigation by the police and inquiries in the newspapers had both proved fruitless.” (Saunders, The Woman in the Dunes, 1962).

Friday, December 21, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

“On the Thought Patterns of the People of Edo”

This just in from Sally Suzuki:
Here is the final draft of your translation. I have fixed all the awkward spots. I hope this pleases you well. And for the blind:




On the Thought Patterns of the People of Edo

By Ishikawa Jun

Translated by R. Shaldjian Morrison

Sakuma’s servant girl, her gold-leafed coiffure all a-frizzle
Word has it she was straddling an elephant just the day before last.

I’m not sure how ethnographers handle the popular folktale of Otake the Dainichi Buddha, but it seems she is usually associated with the story of some temple saint, or with some maxim about not wasting rice grains in the kitchen sink. But whatever the socio-historic reasons may have been for preserving this peculiar Buddha story, the novel idea of transforming some lowly Sakuma housemaid into the Dainichi Nyorai never would have occurred to anyone had the Noh play Eguchi or the popular tales of Saigyō (1118-1190) and Courtesan Eguchi not preceded it. This legend of Eguchi no Kimi, the 12th-century courtesan who was transformed into the Fugen Boddhisatva upon mounting the white elephant, was like a dream long lost through the ages— lost, that is, until the Edoites figured out how to decipher and expand it by superimposing it onto their own contemporary reality. This talent for adaptation (or “creative misprision,” if you will) came to them so naturally that they never knew it to be the working of an inherent wisdom that was simultaneously the secret art of living. “To hell with future generation should they take from us only our residual conceits!” they must have snickered; but the fact remains that the genius of these poets was to be lost entirely on the lumpish critics of later generations. Sadly, the literary world would never regard the Otake legend as anything more than senryū doggerel, and many a critic would make show of his “discernment” by denigrating the legend. We shouldn't, of course, take such judgments too seriously.

The phrase “gold-leafed” clearly refers to the Dainichi Buddha’s coiffure. Yet is can also mean “undisputed,” “certified,” or “the real deal.” Now add to this “all a-frizzle,” and the phrase likely alludes to the popular belief that curly-haired women are exceptionally perverse. It might be well to recall here the following lines from the Noh play Eguchi.
And Eguchi, renowned for her amorous ways,    
Her house where countless secret deeds,   
All buried now like fossil wood. In this dwelling . . .

In the secret cant of Edo, a woman incapable of refusing a male suitor was called “loquat-leaf tea,” likening her to the readily available decoction prescribed by physicians of the day. Otake was certainly one such decoction. Yet this maid to the Sakuma house was not the only “Otake” in Edo; in fact, nearly every kitchen in the city had its own little “Otake,” each of whom found it hard at times not to provide a little “salvation” for the “ailing” men of the city. What I'm getting at is that Otake is a parody (mitate) of Courtesan Eguchi. And just as you're about to despair at the depths to which poor, fickle, and frail woman has sunk, Otake is transformed before your eyes into Courtesan Eguchi, heroine of the Noh play, and her kitchen is now Eguchi’s “transient dwelling.”
Told that you had renounced the world,
I thought you mustn’t dwell on this transient dwelling.

That dwelling which “one begrudges, but in truth / begrudges not.” Just then Eguchi mutates again, this time into the Bodhisattva seated astride the white elephant, though no sooner does she announce:
Having come this far, now I shall return . . .

Whereupon the distant figure resumes its original form, only to be approached immediately by a young man— perhaps one of Otake's regulars seeking another dose of “salvation.” We might even say that this wandering rake has something about him of that old itinerant monk Saigyō.

It would be pointless to read some sort of ideology into this story of Otake traced over the face of Courtesan Eguchi. Nor would it be useful to stress simply that the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination is at work in the story. You see, the Edoites were much more adept at “secularizing” (zokka) ideology than they were at excogitating it. For them, the notion that there could be non-correlating symbols was unthinkable, and it is perhaps for this that they have since been pejoratively labeled “ideologyless.” In the case of the Otake legend, this “secularizing” device works twofold: on the one hand, it converts Eguchi (historical actuality) into Otake (symbol for the quotidian), while on the other it functions as a transformation tableau that depicts Otake when eyes are opened and the Dainichi Buddha when eyes are closed. That is to say, Otake is the Dainichi Buddha in “disguised form” (yatsushi). The Otake legend, too, taken as a whole, is precisely a contemporary retelling of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination. Appropriated onto Edo daily life, the recycled story takes root, having been substantiated long ago by the story of the historical Eguchi. The busy scholar will at once scrawl down “the true story of Otake,” while the greedy mountebank pawns Otake's artifacts in some interim shed; but this notion of yatsushi loses its meaning the moment it is removed from the negotiations described above. At the same time, the notion of yatsushi acquires its vitality the moment it is rendered inseparable from its practice. Put into literary jargon, this method might be called “haikai-ification.”

It is precisely this haikai-ification that runs through the successive artistic techniques of the Edo plebeians. Laborers of the spirit, they possessed a rare talent for producing art that would defy all subsequent systems of criticism. When the modern critic tries to confine the whole of Edo art to some newfangled theory, she demurely evades his grasp. For it is the Edoites— and not, as most scholars assume, their descendants— who deserve the label of “modern.” Whether expert historiographer or dabbling dilettante, one is bound to lose his way inside their labyrinth. Their shadows, you see, skirt away too quickly for the rummaging scholar to apprehend, and their minds are all too lofty for the half-drunk dilettantes of later ages. To get a sense of the mysterious temper of their writings, we must discard all presuppositions which have lead us astray; indeed, we must reassess the supposed resourcefulness of those very presuppositions. So let's put aside for now questions of psychoanalysis and ideology, and focus instead on these specific techniques that have proved so capable of deception.

Although the second-rate art of senryū shares much with haikai, these elements are so mixed in with the smut that they are unsalvageable. Conventional wisdom has led us to believe that the only haikai movement that possessed any real transcendental power was the Bashō orthodoxy and its extension (always a euphemism for decline), and that the haikai of Edo— and particularly “mad verse” (kyōka)— should be thrown out along with senryū. But this, of course, is to throw the baby out with the bath water. Haikai’s peculiar transformation can't be traced by simply following the fifty-three stations of the Tōkaidō highway from Bashō's Edo to Buson's Kyoto. Rather, it was the Edo plebeian who would spark the transformation, and propel it into a literary movement through the formal innovations of Tenmei kyōka.

However we define it, the kyōka of the Tenmei period was qualitatively different from that of any other era. Those who hold that the history of kyōka began in the Kansai region in early Tokugawa and later relocated to Edo tend to explain their position by starting with the family lineage of each poet, whereupon they then count up all of the Manyōshū comic poems and Kokinshū haikai poems, providing exegeses of terms like ushin and mushin and of poems by Kakinomoto Hitomaro and the later Kurinomoto poets, and, finally, after much fretting over the relationship of the Tenmei poets to these ancestors, conclude by pulling out of their ass something from, say, Gyōgetsubō. But even supposing such theories enhance our understanding of the meaning or genealogy of a given kyōka, they still tell us nothing about the particular nature of the Tenmei literary movement, which in fact made an aesthetic break with the existing coteries in both Edo and Kansai.

Honkadori, or “allusive variation,” is a procedure common to kyōka, yet for some reason very few honkadori poems are distinguished. This Yamate no Shirohito poem from Wild Poems of Ten Thousand Generations (1783) is no exception.
“Oak-leave Rice Cakes”

On Narazaka slope: Kashiwa rice cake in hand
I savor it, stroking it back and forth.

This sort of allusion was by no means a discovery of the Tenmei era. In fact, in the same collection there is this poem by Yūchōrō, written much earlier:
Oh, world filled with deceit: Though it’s the Kannazuki month,
The god of poverty won’t let me alone.

A honkadori poem is precisely that which haikai-ifies an earlier canonical poem, and this procedure was in use long before the Tenmei era. In fact, there were personal collections of kyōka being put out even before this. But where does one look to find a kyōka collection that is itself an “allusive variation”— that is, a haikai-ification— of not just a few last lines but of a whole classical anthology? That corresponds both tonally and stylistically to an entire ancient anthology, and that is not simply the result of a little juggling around? In fact, there isn't any, or at least not before the appearance of Ōta Nanpo's Wild Poems in the Tenmei era. To what canonical anthology is it, then, that Wild Poems both tonally and stylistically corresponds? I should probably cite some exemplary works by Nanpo, Kankō and Kisshū to show how they parallel the concerned canonical anthology; but I haven’t the space here for that. Thus, I am compelled to abridge my testimony and hasten to my conclusion, namely, that the anthology to which Wild Poems corresponds is none other than the Kokinshū. And Wild Poems is its haikai-ification. Tenmei kyōka can thus be seen as the first movement in the entire history of Japanese poetry that, at its core, sought to resuscitate the very spirit of the Kokinshū.

Incidentally, are we to view Tenmei kyōka as having developed from the kyōka of forerunners Ishida Mitoku and Nakarai Bokuyō, or of Nagata Teiryū and Yukikaze of the Kamigata coterie? In fact, neither is the case. Between the Genroku (1688-1704) and Kyōhō (1716-1736) eras there was a significant gap in the history of Edo kyōka, which seems inexplicable at first— that is, until you realize just what was so haikai-ish about Tenmei kyōka. It is widely known that prior to Tenmei a rare event occurred that would forever alter the history of haikai, namely, Bashō’s discovery of comic linked verse (haikai no renga) during the Genroku era. (Note: There is no need to mention here Bashō’s dainty little one-liners called hokku). Only by drawing on the Dōjō school’s technique of haikai-izing renga was Bashō able to make this remarkable artistic breakthrough. It now seems inevitable that the haikai movement, blessed with this rare event, would make even further advancements in the Tenmei era. Once Genroku haikai had been designated as the “elegant orthodoxy,” Tenmei kyōka was left to become the “vulgar heterodoxy.” Yet the order by which the haikai movement proceeded from Bashō to Nanpo was by no means a decline; rather, it was a process of secularization. The real decline was to occur instead among Bashō’s followers. If we are to be fair in our use of the term, then the “secularization” of Edo haikai must be seen not merely as a shift in vogue from the hokku of Kikaku to that of Bashō, but rather as a fundamental change in temperament that occurred between Bashō’s “The Monkey's Straw Raincoat” (1691) and Nanpo's Wild Poems (1783). It is in this shift that we see the logic of haikai.

Just as Tenmei kyōka differed temperamentally from earlier kyōka, the Tenmei poets' attitude toward authorial persona couldn’t have differed more from that of their predecessors. Each kyōka poet had his own sobriquet, and this is true not only of the Tenmei poets. However, in the Tenmei era we see a complete transformation in the function of these sobriquets. Previously, a kyōka poet’s alias was no different from the alias of your typical literati haikai poet, in the sense that within each name existed a particular author, that is, his renowned persona. The poets of Tenmei, however, were absent from their sobriquets. In other words, they were anonymous personas, writing yomibito shirazu, or anonymous, poems. The haikai linked verse of Bashō made us forget about authorial presence the moment of the poem's completion. The compilers of Wild Poems, then, took this one step further by erecting a world from this renunciation of authorial name. When it’s a sobriquet who’s playing tricks on you, you can only vainly clutch at a shadow, since the author himself is nowhere to be found. To drive this point across, maybe I should write a series of biographies that address the consummate complexities of the lives of these Tenmei poets. For example, Nanpo was to Tenmei kyōka as Bashō’s was to Genroku haikai, and as compiler of Wild Poems he was to that work as Tsurayuki was to the Kokinshū . . . But it goes beyond that: the self-actualizing phenomenon we call “Nanpo” seems itself a sort of haikai-fication of the Bashō-Tsurayuki phenomenon.

Your average Meiji reader knew only how to extract one or two famous first lines from some remote haikai sequence of Bashō— a rather penurious way of reading which we seem to have imported from those Westerners who were never much interested in anything beyond the author and his profession. It's as if they needed proof of a Creator to be certain that the world exists. Viewed through such methodological spectacles, the “mad literature” of Tenmei is rendered into a blurry, indistinguishable void. You see, Tenmei kyōka was not a profession, it was a movement; and its poets were not personalities, but rather incognitos. And the fact that subsequent generations have consistently failed to grasp this shows just how successful these “mad poets” were in deceiving us. I can see them now rolling about in their graves, gloating at the predicament they’ve kept us in.

A brief anecdote. In early Bunka, Nanpo’s successor as haikai judge, Shikatsube Magao, sought to increase his salary by insisting that kyōka, which he saw as originating in the haikai poems of the Kokinshū, should be consolidated into the more mainstream (and profitable) haikai. Perhaps this is what led to the subsequent crash in kyōka stock. It is testament to the fine temper of Tenmei kyōka that the moment its poets exposed their feeble selves from their sobriquets and fixed the parameters of their art, their free and luminous world vanished in a poof, leaving behind only sordid people and second-rate goods. We might come to a better understanding of haikai if we include in our survey the heretical Tenmei kyōka, rather than limiting ourselves to the orthodox strand of Bashō.

While the Tenmei poets heartily imbibed from the old low-brow Edo and Kyoto zappai verse, they also ingested a certain ingredient from pre-Genroku haikai that Bashō had discounted, namely, humor (kokkei), with which the word haikai was originally synonymous. Yet it was not only the lyrical humor of experimental works like Wild Poems that resonated so deeply with the Edoites. In fact, looking over these poems, I see that many of them are downright sad. It was never set in stone that these anonymous poets— at times boisterous, at times melancholy, always at a distance from their creation— should always be a bundle of laughs. As I've already mentioned, their world was anchored in the spirit of the distant Kokinshū through the use of haikai techniques. The Kokinshū in particular was chosen because conditions on the ground necessitated its appropriation; that is, nothing permeated their classically schooled sensibilities and echoed through their hearts like this anthology. It was the bedrock upon which Wild Poems could be built, even before taking into account the social realities of Tenmei Edo.

There is another source related to the Edoites’ education which bears mentioning, and that is the Selection of Tang Poems. What is important, however, is not the Edoites' understanding of the poems per se, but rather their intimate acquaintance with the collection as a whole, and the gesinnungsunterricht— or aesthetic sentiments— which were cultivated through the repeated recitation in Japanese of these poems. These two features together produced kyōshi, or “mad poems in the Chinese style,” which would merge the two schools of Nanpo and Dōmyaku into a single sect. For practical purposes, let us group Tenmei kyōshi together with Tenmei kyōka, as it would make little sense to try and trace kyōshi to its source by citing obscure exchanges such as that between the Confucianist and the I-Ching scholar in A Treatise of Ten Rules. If you're just looking for any poem that involves “aesthetic madness” (fūkyō), then you may as well also throw in the autumn poems from Collection of Yamato and Han Cantillations (ca. 1013) and Minamoto no Shitagō’s (911-983) “Primroses.” However, as with Tenmei kyōka, one needn’t trace the family lineage in order to get a sense of Tenmei kyōshi's spirit, which bears only a chance resemblance to the kyōshi composed between Bunsei and Meiji. Hence I see no need for further expatiation.

The “colloquial explanations” (genkai) of the Selection of Tang Poems are suffused with the spirit of Tenmei kyōshi— in fact, they themselves are a kind of haikai-ification of the original Chinese poems. For example, here's one by Nanpo, titled “On Parting with Courtesan Kasen of the Gomeirō House.”
At night he is led by sleeve to my bedchamber
In the morning I see him as far as the gate.
Answer, should my apprentice geisha inquire:
“I was clear in my love missive: ‘Here's a piece of my heart, but don't come back.’”

From a glance it is evident that this is a parody of Wang Changling’s (698-795) “Parting with Xingjian At Hibiscus Inn,” a solemn exile poem from the Tang dynasty:
In the cold night’s rain you accompanied me along the river into Wu.
At dawn, I saw you off as far as the lonely mountains of Chu.
Answer, should my friends in Luoyang inquire of me:
“A piece of my heart frozen over as ice in a crystal vase.”

One might call this “hon-shi-dori,” that is, an allusive variation on a Chinese poem rather than on a native waka. Yet Nanpo’s allusion is more involved than it first seems. The original Chinese describes the sorrows of parting, while the parody describes a playboy’s tryst in the pleasure quarters; yet by suddenly inverting the original meaning, Nanpo has the made two poems into curious refractions of one another. Delighted by this charming connotative shift, Edo readers must have been moved to chills as they laughed outwardly at Nanpo’s version while crying inwardly at Wang Changling’s. Removed from these negotiations, however, the art of appreciating Tenmei kyōshi was bound to go into decline. Had Nanpo believed that only those with the steel nerve of a samurai could dabble in comic poetry, he would have gained toughness at the expense of spirit. But when it is his furtive shadow stealing upon the reader that moves them to chills, then this is no longer merely a rhetorical flourish. Indeed, many kyōshi poets possess great skill, some surpassing even Nanpo. The sublime quality of Kanwatei Onitake’s (1760-1818) selected poems, for example, has received much acclaim. And the eleventh chapter of Chūshingura: The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers surely reveals the austere face of Confucianism. Yet both examples still pale by comparison to Dōmyaku Sensei's (1750-1801) The Housemaid’s Ballad, and one must guard against praising them too highly. By evaluating Edo poetry capriciously and in isolation, we remove ourselves from that original urgency which characterized the Tenmei Edoites’ method of reading. The genius of Tenmei kyōshi was articulated through innovation. Thus it would be foolish to jump headlong into a debate about kyōshi craftsmanship, which, unlike the native art of kyōka, is derivative of China.

Here is another bit of evidence that shows the extent of Selection of Tang Poems’ popularity among the Edo public. In Santō Kyōden’s sharebon titled Shigeshige Chiwa (1799), there is an episode in which a certain demi-connoisseur, having ventured into a brothel for the evening, waits in vain for his lover to attend him in the surrogate room. At the head of his pillow rests a small folding screen, on which are scribbled a few verses in calligraphy. The twenty, squarely-drawn Chinese characters read:
The grass in the Ever-Faithful Palace
Like her sorrow has grown thick with the years,
Burying the elegant bootprints of her former lover,
Who no longer mounts the jeweled steps to her bedchamber.

Pulsating with pride, the philistine stutters to himself these lines at random, unable to comprehend the more difficult characters. Here’s how he reads, for example, the third and last lines of the quatrain:
. . . bootprints buried in the . . . blah, blah, blah . . .
Mounting . . . jeweled steps . . . trying not to rouse the servant.

His (mis)reading of the poem shows the influence of the “colloquial explanations” I mentioned earlier. This passage was clearly intended to provoke laughter in its readers, who were presumed to possess the requisite knowledge needed to laugh. In other words, the sharebon readers of the day must have known that these twenty, squarely-drawn Chinese characters were from Cui Guofu’s “The Grass in the Ever-Faithful Palace.” Moreover, having learned at a young age this legend of Emperor Cheng of Han and Consort Ban, these readers must have been struck with admiration at Kyōden’s novel idea of superimposing upon his spurned philistine the rejected widow of the ancient Han Court, and at the skill with which he appropriated the two into the epigraph. We can be sure that a writer as love-shrewd as Kyōden never would have made his readers blush at these twenty squarely-drawn Chinese characters had he not been absolutely certain that they would be in on the joke.

Here I've rambled on about sharebon novelettes and the pleasure quarters. But to be honest, I’ve been quietly mulling over something else, wishing to move from sharebon toward “books of sentiments” (ninjōbon). This “something else” relates to the idea of the pleasure quarters, that ultimate invention of Edo writers. It is precisely by following this thread— which took us from the legend of Otake to the special-made notion of the pleasure quarters— that we can begin to see how the Edoites’ way of thinking developed. But more on this some other day.

(March, 1943)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Study Guide for Akutagawa Ryūnosuke “The Life of a Stupid Man” (1927; Aru ahō no isshō) and “Spinning Wheels” (1927; Haguruma)

Or, in PDF format . . .
Study Guide for Akutagawa Ryūnosuke “The Life of a Stupid Man” (1927; Aru ahō no isshō) and “Spinning Wheel...

Study Guide for Akutagawa Ryūnosuke “The Life of a Stupid Man” (1927; Aru ahō no isshō) and “Spinning Wheels” (1927; Haguruma)


Lit 365: Morrison
Terms/References/Key Concepts

1. Flâneur : “The name given to a crucial figure of modernism as it emerged in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. As understood by Baudelaire, the flâneur or stroller was one of the heroes of modern life. A flâneur was held to be an urban, contemporary and stylish person who walked the anonymous spaces of the modern city. Here he experienced the complexity, disturbances and confusions of the streets with their shops, displays, images and variety of people. This perspective emphasizes the urban character of modernism. The flâneur took in the fleeting beauty and vivid, if transitory, impressions of the crowds, seeing everything anew in its immediacy yet achieving a certain detachment from it. The idea of the flâneur directs our attention towards the way in which the urban landscape has become aestheticized through architecture, billboards, shop displays, street signs etc., and through the fashionable clothing, hairstyles, make-up etc. of the people who inhabit this world.
[...] The adventures of the flâneur [...] were one of male-coded public spaces from which women were excluded (for example, the boulevards and cafes) or entered only as objects for male consumption. Thus, the flâneur’s gaze was frequently erotic, and women were the objects of that gaze.” (Barker, The SAGE Dictionary of Cultural Studies, 70).

2. Eros: “1. Term used by Sigmund Freud as a poetic metaphor to personify the life-force and sexual instinct. 2. In later psychoanalytic theory, the drive that comprises the instinct for self-preservation, that aims for individual survival; containing also the sexual instinct, whose goal is the survival of the species. Named for the Greek god of sexual love (responsible for permitting and harmonizing life, secret lover of Psyche). Also known as life instinct. (Corsini, The Dictionary of Psychology, 339).

3. Thanatos: “1. According to the Freudian view, thanatos is the basic death instinct that functions in opposition to the life instinct. 2. The Greek God of death, which in psychoanalytic theory becomes the name of a purported “death instinct” inherent in all organic matter and that is somehow more basic than its opposing instinct ‘eros’ the life instinct.” Ahmad, Comprehensive Dictionary of Education, 510).
*Make a list of all terms and references you are unfamiliar with.

Study Questions

Consider all of the following questions as you read. For your homework, answer three questions for each story.

Spinning Wheels” (1927)

1. Describe the narrative structure of the work.

2. List and discuss the recurring images in the work.

3. Give a brief description/diagnosis of the narrator’s psychological condition.

4. List and explain each of the allusions, symbols, metaphors, associations, foreshadowings, etc. that are related to death.

5. List and describe the various images and associations related to flight.

6. Analyze the passages related to fire, desire, hell, the devil, sexuality, eros, spirit possession, etc.

7. List and describe the many doppelgangers, “second selves,” self-reflections, etc. that the narrator encounters in the work.

8. Explain how this work relates to the literary topos of the “the flâneur” (see above).

9. Explain the motif of vengeance, sin, female wrath, the Furies, etc. that runs through the work.

10. Explain the significance of the faraway “pine forest” that is alluded to several times in the text. What does this pine forest represent?

11. Many images/colors/sensations/words appear in the work in a certain context, only to appear again in a different context. Identify some of these images/elements, and explain how their meanings shift according to their context. Include in your answer a discussion of the significance of the eponymous image of the “spinning wheels.”

The Life of a Fool” (1927)

1. Explain the “point” (i.e. the symbolic significance within the context of the narrative) of each episode.

2. Where is the narrator (both spatially and temporally)? Describe the narrative voice, and its relation to the events/characters it describes.

3. Although the narrative is very poetic and fragmentary—indeed its structure seems to foreclose any attempt by the reader to extract/construct a “story”—try to piece together the events of the narrative as if it were a “regular novel,” and give me a summary of that novel.

4. Examine the relation between the death-related images and life-related images that appear in the work. Consider the complex relationship between Eros (the drive toward life) and Thanatos (the drive toward death, both personal and general) suggested in the work.

5. Examine the references to Western culture/civilization that appear in the work. Explain the function/significance of each.

6. Discuss the work’s autobiographical elements. How does the work relate to the genre of autobiography? Why do you think Akutagawa—who had made a name for himself as an “aestheticist” or tanbiha (i.e. anti-shishōsetsu) writer—suddenly turned to his own personal life for literary material?

7. Examine the images and motifs related to madness. What does the narrator mean when he says that the protagonist is “possessed by the demon of the fin de siècle”?

8. Discuss the various women (the protagonist’s wife, his mother, the madwoman, the “moon woman,” the “Hokuriku woman,” the woman whose face resembles the sun, etc.) in the story. Describe their relation to the protagonist.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Study Questions for Hagiwara Sakutarō’s “The Town of Cats” (1935; Nekomachi- sanbunshifūna shōsetsu, translated by Jeffrey Angles)

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Study Questions for Hagiwara Sakutarō’s “The Town of Cats” (1935; Nekomachi- sanbunshifūna shōsetsu, transl...

Study Questions for Hagiwara Sakutarō’s “The Town of Cats” (1935; Nekomachi- sanbunshifūna shōsetsu, translated by Jeffrey Angles)


Terms/Related Concepts/Topics

Look up the following terms/related concepts/topics, and consider their relation to the text. (Note: I have already started to fill in some of these.)

1. Drug use, availability, and distribution in modern Japan:
2. Parallax: the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer.
3. Metaphysics: Traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions: What is there? What is it like?
4. Dislocation (and the aesthetics of):
5. Defamiliarization (Rs: ostranenie; Jp: 異化) : The distinctive effect achieved by literary works in disrupting our habitual perception of the world, enabling us to 'see' things afresh, according to the theories of some English Romantic poets and of Russian formalism (Baldick, 1990).
6. Wanderlust: a strong impulse to travel.
7. Plato’s Theory of Forms: The idea that behind the flux of phenomenal appearances lies an immutable realm of non-material abstract (but substantial) forms (or ideas) that possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. The Form (or Idea) is an aspacial, atemporal, objective blueprint of perfection, as contrasted with idol (image/appearance), which is merely the Form’s particular aspect, which exists materially and temporally. According to this theory, each concrete particular is an imitation of its abstract and eternal Form.

8. Zhuangzi’s 莊子 butterfly: Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.” (Zhuangzi, Ch 2, tr. Burton Watson 1968:49). Original: 昔者莊周夢為蝴蝶,栩栩然蝴蝶也,自適志與,不知周也。俄然覺,則蘧蘧然周也。不知周之夢為蝴蝶與,蝴蝶之夢為周與?周與蝴蝶則必有分矣。此之謂物化。
9. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860): German philosopher best known for his book, The World as Will and Representation.
10. The fourth dimension:
11. “The Fantastic” (Todorov’s concept): According to Bulgarian theorist Tzvetan Todorov (1939- ), the fantastic is characterized by: a) a hesitation on the part of the reader in deciding whether to interpret the events of the story as real or unreal, natural or supernatural; and/or b) a similar hesitation evident in the characters or narrator(s). To qualify as “fantastic,” the reader must be able to resist reading the story as a simple allegory or extended metaphor; in short, he must read it literally and metaphorically. “Fantastic” works are often divided into two types: strange (in which rational explanation is predominant) and marvelous (in which supernatural explanation is predominant).
12. Spirit Possession in Japanese Folklore:
13. Utopia/Dystopia:
14. Metamorphosis:
15. Prose Poem (sanbunshi):

Study Questions

Answer six of the following. I expect at least one full paragraph for each answer.

1. Consider the three references that appear in the work (the Schopenhauer quote, the Horace reference, and the Zhuangzi reference). Explain each reference in relation to the overall theme(s) of the work.

2. The narrator provides several interpretive frameworks for explaining the strange happenings described in the work. List and describe each of these interpretive frameworks. Which framework does the narrator seem to prefer? Which framework is the reader most likely to use?

3. As we discussed in class, “hesitation”—either in a character or in the reader—is the hallmark of “the fantastic.” Explain instances of “hesitation” that occur in/are produced by this work.

4. In the title, Hagiwara refers to his work as a “prose poem” (sanbunshi)? What makes the work a “prose poem”? (In other words, what are the work’s poetic qualities and its prosaic qualities?)

5. What metaphysical claims is the work suggesting/making? What is this “riddle” that the narrator keeps referring to?

6. Describe the town of U and its residents. Can this section of the story be read as a metaphor/allegory/critique of Japanese society at the time? As a prophecy of what was to come in the late 1930s? Explain.

7. Describe the meaning/significance of the residents’ metamorphoses into cats. Why cats? What do the cats represent? Given all the buildup, isn’t this a bit anticlimactic?

8. Discuss the final section of the story. In your view, can the “true” aspects of reality be seen only when one is removed from ordinary modes of viewing? Or is reality knowable only through reason, science, objective observation, and the like? What does the work tell us about the limits and potentials of “reason” and “intuition”?

9. What other works that we have read in class is this story similar to? Explain the similarities.