Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Study Guide for Day Two of Tanizaki’s Some Prefer Nettles (Ch 6 - 10)


Terms/Place Names/Cultural Particularities/Etc.

1. Awaji Island淡路島 (Hyōgo Prefecture): Island at the entrance to the Inland Sea (Setonaikai), forming Osaka Bay. Legend has it that it was the first created by Izanagi and Izanami, the primordial kami. It is separated from the island of Shikoku by the Strait of Naruto.

2. Identification (concept in psychoanalysis): An early, primitive kind of attachment to an object which results in incorporating some of its aspects into oneself. Ego and superego make use of identification to attract libido away from objects and toward themselves, thereby building up the personality. Other types include narcissistic, goal-oriented, object-loss, and aggressor identification. (A Glossary of Freudian Terms, 8-9)

3. Overidentification: In his book The Plague of Fantasies, Žižek develops the concept of “overidentification,” a psychoanalytic term and potential political strategy by which the malign nature—or “hidden reverse”—of an ideology is exposed through one’s total identification with that ideology. For example, someone who “identifies” with capitalism believes in the possibility of upward social mobility, the “American dream,” etc; someone who “overidentifies” with capitalism—say, Ayn Rand—however, embraces not only the ideology’s talking points but its negative implications as well, namely, the selfishness, greed, alienation, inequality, commodity fetishism, etc. that go along with it. The old man in this novel might be said to “over-identify” with the character type of the 1930s cultural conservative.

4. Fūzoku shōsetsu 風俗小説: “novel of manners”; a novel that takes as its main subject social manners, customs, and mores, rather than the emotions (ninjō) of an individual.

5. “Yuki” (“Snow”; 115): http://bit.ly/fGWkzP

6. A word on the title: Fom the proverb “every worm to his taste; some prefer to eat nettles” (蓼喰う虫も好きずき), meaning “each to his own taste,” “there’s no accounting for taste,” “different strokes for different folks,” etc. “Tade” () isn’t really “nettles,” but a bitter herb (Polygonaceae), sometimes translated as “knotweed” or “knot-grass,” used as a garnish or sauce with some Japanese dishes, as with the ayu in this photo: http://bit.ly/W4F5HF.

7. “Matahei screen” (114): Iwasa Matabei 岩佐又兵衛 : http://bit.ly/V0JxZe

8. [Add to this list as you read . . .]

Study Questions

Answer all of the following. Bullet-point answers are OK. Bring your answers to class, and continue to add to them as you discuss the questions with your group.

1. Identify the focalization points in chapters six through ten.

2. What fūzoku shōsetsu 風俗小説 (novel of manners) elements are evident in chapter six? Is there more “showing” or “telling” in this chapter? What are its main themes? How is this chapter structured and presented like a play?

3. What gift does Kaname receive from Takanatsu? How does Kaname’s interest in this gift reflect his personality/tastes/way of living/philosophy of life?

4. Describe Misako’s personality. Is she really as promiscuous and independent as she makes herself out to be? How do Kaname and Takanatsu perceive her differently?

5. What do we know about Aso’s personality/character? Describe Misako’s relationship with him.

6. Describe the two opposing philosophies of marriage that are represented in the work.

7. Describe the setting (Awaji-jima淡路島) in chapters nine and ten. How are these chapters thematically similar to the “Chijimi chapters” of Kawabata’s Yukiguni (1935)? Explain the significance of this setting in relation to the other sections.

8. Describe the old man’s personality. Consider him in relation to the notion of “overidentification” described above. Also, how is he similar to the narrator of Tanizaki’s essay “In Praise of Shadows” (posted on Moodle)?

9. Describe the old man’s ideas about the west of Japan. How do these ideas contrast with those of Botchan and Kiyo in Sōseki’s Botchan (1906)?

10. Identify passages that reveal a gap between the O-hisa that the old man sees and O-hisa as she actually is.

11. Discuss the significance of the flashback on pages 115-118. How does this early experience inform/influence Kaname’s adult life?

Bonus Question: Continue to look for details that undermine Seidensticker’s interpretation of the novel as a “clash between the new and the old, the imported and the domestic” (Intro, x), and as a tug-of-war between the old and new, East and West.

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