Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mori Ōgai Sanshō Dayū (1915) Study Guide


Terms/Particularities of Culture

1. Apollonian and Dionysian: Apollonian and Dionysian are terms used by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy to designate the two central principles in Greek culture. The Apollonian, which corresponds to Schopenhauer’s principium individuationis (“principle of individuation”), is the basis of all analytic distinctions. Everything that is part of the unique individuality of man or thing is Apollonian in character; all types of form or structure are Apollonian, since form serves to define or individualize that which is formed; thus, sculpture is the most Apollonian of the arts, since it relies entirely on form for its effect. Rational thought is also Apollonian since it is structured and makes distinctions.

The Dionysian, which corresponds roughly to Schopenhauer’s conception of Will, is directly opposed to the Apollonian. Drunkenness and madness are Dionysian because they break down a man’s individual character; all forms of enthusiasm and ecstasy are Dionysian, for in such states man gives up his individuality and submerges himself in a greater whole: music is the most Dionysian of the arts, since it appeals directly to man’s instinctive, chaotic emotions and not to his formally reasoning mind. Nietzsche believed that both forces were present in Greek tragedy, and that the true tragedy could only be produced by the tension between them. He used the names Apollonian and Dionysian for the two forces because Apollo, as the sun-god, represents light, clarity, and form, whereas Dionysus, as the wine-god, represents drunkenness and ecstasy. (Walter Kaufmann, From Shakespeare to Existentialism: An Original Study (Princeton University Press, 1959), pp. 207-8)

Old provinces:

1. Iwashiro岩代国 (Fukushima-ken): where the family lives
2. Tsukushi 筑紫国 (Fukuoka, way west in Kyushu): where father banished 12 yr prior
3. Echigo (Niigata): Nihonkaigawa; where the town of Kasuga is.
4. Sado 佐渡国 (tiny island in Nihonkai; part of Niigata, Sado City): place of exile.

The Tango-bound boat passes through the following looking for buyers . . .
1. Etchū 越中 (Toyama-ken): on Nihonkai-gawa. Borders Echigo (N). City: Miyazaki
2. Noto 能登国 (Ishikawa-ken): the tip prefecture; on Nihonkaigawa.
3. Echizen 越前 (Fukui-ken): Nihonkai-gawa
4. Wakasa 若狭 (Fukui-ken): Nihonkai-gawa
5. Tango 丹後国 (northern Kyoto-ken): Nihonkai-gawa. City: Ishiura (Sansho’s estate)

Other places/references (add to this list as you read)
1. Imazu : 
2. Nakayama-dera (Hyougo-ken):  temple in Hyogo-ken
3. Rengebuji Temple 蓮華峰寺: in Sado
4. Ise (in Mie-ken, formerly Iga 伊賀国 and Kii 紀伊国 on Taiheiyou-gawa):
5. Kiyomizu-dera: founded in 798; no nails;
6. Jizou bodhisattva: guardian of children and travelers; Anju’s Jizo amulet
7.  Taira (or Heike) Clan: One of 4 important clans of Heian (others were Minamoto, Tachibana, Fujiwara); arrogant; destroyed in Genpei War (1180-1185); subject of Heike monogatari.

Study Questions

Answer all of the following.

1. Give a concise summary of the story.

2. Despite taking place in the Heian period, the story is very much about the contemporary world in which Ōgai lived. Identify the major themes of the work and explain how they reflect/relate to/engage with the historical period? Is the story an allegory for Japan in 1915? If so, what corresponds to what?

3. Discuss the work’s fantasy-like ending, in which all conflicts are suddenly and almost miraculously resolved. Why do you think Ōgai made these alterations to the original story? What is the effect of such changes? Does this unexpected happy ending prove that Ōgai was ultimately a conservative/reactionary writer who was paranoid about social unrest and revolution?

4. Compare Ōgai’s story to Mizoguchi’s film that was made a few years after the end of WWII? How are they each a reflection of their times? How do they represent different ends of the ideological spectrum?

5. Discuss the narrative voice. Who is narrating? Is the narrator omniscient? Does it employ mostly showing or telling? Does it focalize itself in any of the characters? Does it relate events that are mostly constitutive or supplementary? What style is it written in (言文一致 or 雅俗一致)?

6. After General Nogi’s famous seppuku suicide in 1912 following the death of Emperor Meiji, Ōgai became rather obsessed with the ideas of junshi (殉死) and self-sacrifice. Discuss the theme of self-sacrifice as it is presented in this work, represented most conspicuously in the two characters, Ubatake and Anju.

7. What does Ōgai believe to be the proper relationship between history and fiction? What is his attitude toward his historical materials?

8. Ōgai describes his own artistic temperament as more “Apollonian” than “Dionysian.” What does this mean? What is Apollonian or Dionysian about “Sanshō the Steward”?

9. How is human nature presented in the work? What is Ōgai trying to say about human nature, the various kinds of evil, etc.? 

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