Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Study Guide: Ishikawa Jun’s “Jesus of the Ruins” (Yakeato no iesu; 1946)



Yakeato generation (yakeato sedai 焼跡世代): “The boy in this short story belonged to a generation of war-orphans numbering approximately 123,000 by the end of the war in 1945. The child literally defies description because the ‘taxonomy of his kind had yet to be invented.’ The taxonomy that Ishikawa was looking for in 1946 when the short-narrative was composed was shortly to define an entire generation that would come to be known as yakeato sedai or the ‘generation coming of age amidst the burned-out ruins after the war.’ Ishikawa was born in 1899 and set a literary precedent when he used the title phrase to signify an orphaned child growing up in the burned-out ruins of metropolitans where the immediate black-market economy signified the struggle for daily survival. Ishikawa’s indistinguishable usage of the term yakeato introduces the possibility of a generation that would rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of the long war” (Rosenbaum, 2006, 2; for more, see Legacies of the Asia-Pacific War: The Yakeato Generation, edited by Roman Rosenbaum, Yasuko Claremont (2012), as well as Rosenbaum’s article “Ishikawa Jun and Postwar Japan”).

Yatsushi やつし: From the verb yatsusu which means “to disguise,” yatsushi is a disguised contemporary version of a romantic figure from antiquity or classical literature. It involves the inversion of something refined/noble into something vulgar/plebeian. In this story, the yakeato orphan is described as a sort of yatsushi version of Jesus Christ. Ishikawa Jun discusses this term—along with mitate, haikai, honkadori, and other terms related to Edo-period aesthetics—in his essay “On the ThoughtPatterns of the People of Edo” (1943).

Mitate 身立て: Analog; the depiction of one thing through the presentation of something else. In traditional waka, it is associated with a kind of “elegant confusion,” such as when falling cherry blossoms petals are mistaken for snow. In general, the term means “selection” and signifies imagery that combines two completely different subjects, often drawn from high culture and popular culture respectively. In this story, the yakeato orphan is given an added depth through his mitate link through with Jesus.

Kiyomizu hall 清水観音堂: Inspired by the magnificent Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Ueno Kiyomizu Kannon-dō was established by Abbot Tenkai Sōjō, who was also the founder of the Kan’eiji Temple. Built in 1631, the temple is one of Tokyo’s oldest, and has miraculously survived battles of civil war and bombing raids. Today, it is recognized as a national treasure.

Tōshōgū Shrine東照宮: Built in 1616, the shrine is one of numerous shrines in Japan dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate. Until 1868, the shrine was a part of Kan’eiji Temple.

Ueno black market (yamiichi 闇市): A major site of the black markets that flourished in the immediate postwar period, when goods were hard to come by.

Dazai Shundai 太宰春台 (1680-1747): Neo-Confucian scholar, born in the province of Shinano (Nagano prefecture). Entering the service of the daimyo of Izushi near Hyōgo, he studied under Nakano Iken. Later, having left the Izushi estate, he became a disciple of Ogyū Sorai. He then entered the service of the daimyo of Ooimi (Shimōsa) but soon decided to teach. His favorite subject was economics, and he published a number of works on the subject, the best known of which were Keizairoku (Discussion of Economics, 1729) and Keizairokushū-i (Discussion of Economics, part two). He wrote more than 50 works. (Louis Frédéric, Japan Encyclopedia, 150).

Hattori Nankaku 服部南郭 (1683-1759): Confucian scholar, painter, and poet of the mid-Tokugawa period. Born in Kyoto, he studied the Chinese classics under Ogyū Sorai, then opened his own school in 1716. He is best known for his Bunjinga “scholarly paintings,” which are in imitation of the Chinese Qing-dynasty style. He helped to  popularize Tang poetry, which had an enormous influence on Edo culture.

Gap (béance) (Term in Lacanian Psychoanalysis): The French term béance is an antiquated literary term which means a ‘large hole or opening.’ It is also a scientific term used in medicine to denote the opening of the larynx. The term is used in several ways in Lacan’s work. In 1946, he speaks of an ‘interrogative gap’ which opens up in madness, when the subject is perplexed by the phenomena which he experiences (hallucinations, etc.) (Ec, 165–6). 
In the early 1950s, the term comes to refer to the fundamental rupture between man and NATURE, which is due to the fact that ‘in man, the imaginary relation has deviated, in so far as that is where the gap is produced whereby death makes itself felt’ (S2, 210). This gap between man and nature is evident in the mirror stage [...] The function of the imaginary is precisely to fill this gap, thus covering over the subject’s division and presenting an imaginary sense of unity and wholeness. 
In 1957 the term is used in the context of the relationship between the sexes; ‘in the relation between man and woman…a gap always remains open’ (S4, 374; see S4, 408). This anticipates Lacan’s later remarks on the non-existence of the SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP. 
In 1964, Lacan argues that ‘the relation of the subject to the Other is entirely produced in a process of gap’ (S11, 206), and states that the subject is constituted by a gap, since the subject is essentially divided (see SPLIT). He also argues that the concept of causality is essentially problematic because there is always a mysterious, inexplicable gap between cause and effect (S11, 21–2). 
Lacan also uses the term ‘dehiscence’ in a way that makes it practically synonymous, in his discourse, with the term ‘gap’. Dehiscence is a botanical term which designates the bursting open of mature seed-pods; Lacan uses the term to refer to the split which is constitutive of the subject: there is ‘a vital dehiscence that is constitutive of man’ (E, 21). This split is also the division between culture and nature which means that man’s relation to the latter ‘is altered by a certain dehiscence at the heart of the organism, a primordial. Discord’ (E, 4) (Evans, 72-73)

Study Questions
Answer all of the following.
1. Describe the narrative structure of the work. Who is narrating the story? What it his relation to the world he is describing?

2. Describe the scene at the Ueno yamiichi (black market). What phase of human history do we seem to be in? What is the relation between past, present, and future? Does the narrator feel that the world has really turned over a “new leaf”?

3. Describe the woman selling the o-musubi rice balls. How does the narrator react to her? What qualities does she seem to embody?

4. Describe the yakeato orphan who appears in the black market. How do people react to him? How does the narrator react? What powers does he seem to possess?

5. Describe the incident that takes place in the market. How does the narrator become involved?

6. What does the narrator intend to do when he gets to Yanaka? What is the significance of this act? Explain his interest in Dazai Shundai, Hattori Nankaku, Edo period (particularly Tenmei era), Tang dynasty, etc.

7. Describe the appearance of the orphan the next day. Why does he chase down and attack the narrator? What does this scuffle symbolize?

8. Discuss the connection between the yakeato orphan and Jesus Christ in terms of the Edo/Ishikawan concepts of yatsushi and mitate (see definition above).

9. Describe the scene at the market the next morning. Discuss the final passage of the work:

Until only yesterday stands had lined the alleys of the marketplace like a wall. But what about today?
All that remained along either side of the streets were the long, empty rows of stalls constructed of flimsy reed screens. Stretching as far as the eye could see, they resembled huge stable equipped with countless berths and mangers. But it was a horseless livery. Not a horse was in sight.
Peering still farther inside, one saw an open space. It looked freshly swept. It was as if someone had taken a stiff broom and given it a vigorous sweeping.
Still, the surface was market by a spot here and there. It was as though something had traipsed across it and left behind its traces. They were the marks of an unidentified being that had walked upon the face of the earth and left its telltale imprint. As a matter of fact, the traces looked ever so much like footsteps—yea, even hoofprints—that a strange creature, having wandered into the desert, left as its tracks in the sand.

10. Gaps, stains, openings, rips, tears, burn marks, traces, holes, etc. form a cluster of recurring images in the work. Discuss the significance of these images.

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