Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Study Guide: Ishikawa Jun “Mars’ Song” (Marusu no uta; 1938)


Relevant Terms

1. Metafiction: a mimesis of product rather than of product; fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction, exposing the fictional illusion. “Fiction about fiction; or more especially a kind of fiction that openly comments on its own fictional status. In a weak sense, many modern novels about novelists having problems writing their novels may be called metafictional in so far as they discuss the nature of fiction; but the term is normally used for works that involve a significant degree of self-consciousness about themselves as fictions, in ways that go beyond occasional apologetic addresses to the reader. The most celebrated case is Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1760-1767), which makes a continuous joke of its own digressive form. A notable modern example is John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), in which Fowles interrupts the narrative to explain his procedures, and offers the reader alternative endings. Perhaps the finest of modern metafictions is Italo Calvino’s Se una notte d’inverno un viaggatore (If on a winter’s night a traveler, 1979), which begins ‘You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel.” (Baldick, ODLT, 203)

2. Self-conscious narrator: A narrator that draws the reader’s attention to the process and mechanics of narration.

3. Death Drive (pulsion de mort) (psychoanalysis): Although intimations of the concept of the death drive (Todestrieb) can be found early on in Freud’s work, it was only in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g) that the concept was fully articulated. In this work Freud established a fundamental opposition between life drives (eros), conceived of as a tendency towards cohesion and unity, and the death drives, which operate in the opposite direction, undoing connections and destroying things. However, the life drives and the death drives are never found in a pure state, but always mixed/fused together in differing proportions. Indeed, Freud argued that were it not for this fusion with erotism, the death drive would elude our perception, since in itself it is silent (Freud, 1930a: SE, XXI, 120).
The concept of the death drive was one of the most controversial concepts introduced by Freud, and many of his disciples rejected it (regarding it as mere poetry or as an unjustifiable incursion into metaphysics), but Freud continued to reaffirm the concept for the rest of his life. Of the non-Lacanian schools of psychoanalytic theory, only Kleinian psychoanalysis takes the concept seriously.
Lacan follows Freud in reaffirming the concept of the death drive as central to psychoanalysis: ‘to ignore the death instinct in his [Freud’s] doctrine is to misunderstand that doctrine entirely’ (E, 301).
In Lacan’s first remarks on the death drive, in 1938, he describes it as a nostalgia for a lost harmony, a desire to return to the preoedipal fusion with the mother’s breast, the loss of which is marked on the psyche in the weaning complex (Lacan, 1938:35). In 1946 he links the death drive to the suicidal tendency of narcissism (Ec, 186). By linking the death drive with the preoedipal phase and with narcissism, these early remarks would place the death drive in what Lacan later comes to call the imaginary order. However, when Lacan begins to develop his concept of the three orders of imaginary, symbolic and real, in the 1950s, he does not situate the death drive in the imaginary but in the symbolic. In the seminar of 1954–5, for example, he argues that the death drive is simply the fundamental tendency of the symbolic order to produce REPETITION; ‘The death instinct is only the mask of the symbolic order’ (S2, 326). This shift also marks a difference with Freud, for whom the death drive was closely bound up with biology, representing the fundamental tendency of every living thing to return to an inorganic state. By situating the death drive firmly in the symbolic, Lacan articulates it with culturerather than nature; he states that the death drive ‘is not a question of biology’ (E, 102), and must be distinguished from the biological instinct to return to the inanimate (S7, 211–12).
Another difference between Lacan’s concept of the death drive and Freud’s emerges in 1964. Freud opposed the death drive to the sexual drives, but now Lacan argues that the death drive is not a separate drive, but is in fact an aspect of every DRIVE. ‘The distinction between the life drive and the death drive is true in as much as it manifests two aspects of the drive’ (S11, 257). Hence Lacan writes that ‘every drive is virtually a death drive’ (Ec, 848), because (i) every drive pursues its own extinction, (ii) every drive involves the subject in repetition, and (iii) every drive is an attempt to go beyond the pleasure principle, to the realm of excess JOUISSANCE where enjoyment is experienced as suffering.

4. Fascism: “Political philosophy [from Latin fasces, the bundle of ax and rods carried before Roman consuls as a symbol of authority]. A political doctrine, in opposition to liberalism and socialism, which was originally proposed in early twentieth-century Italy by Mussolini and the neo-Hegelian philosopher Giovanni Gentile. The doctrine was deeply influenced by the Hegelian theory of the state and combined extreme nationalism with extreme communitarianism. Fascism rejects individualism by claiming that a nation is an organic entity rather than an aggregate of individuals with basic rights. It propounds irrationality and particularity in contrast to rationality and universality. It supports the role of the government as the upholder of moral integrity and the nation’s collective purpose. It advocates an authoritarian state in which the government controls all aspects of social life. In practice, Mussolini’s fascist government denied freedom of speech to individuals and appealed to violence. The term ‘fascism’ was later used to characterize Hitler’s National Socialism (Nazi) and other European regimes influenced by Hitler and Mussolini. Through Hitler, fascism became associated with genocidal anti-Semitism, but other fascist regimes were militaristic. Since the Second World War, the terms has been taken as a symbol of evil, which is applied to any oppressive and totalitarian political regime or action. Some political theorists seek to understand how fascist regimes arose in the context of modernity” (Bunnin, BDWP, 251).

Particularities of Culture

5. Hachiman 八幡: “One of the most popular Shinto deities of Japan; the patron deity of the Minamoto clan and of warriors in general; often referred to as the god of war. Hachiman is commonly regarded as the deification of Ojin, the 15th emperor of Japan. He is seldom worshipped alone, however, and Hachiman shrines are most frequently dedicated to three deities, the emperor Ojin, his mother the empress Jingo, and the goddess Hime-gami” (Schadé).

6. Roei no uta 露営の歌 (Field Encampment Song): Japanese gunka (military song) from 1937. “Marusu no uta” seems to be based on this actual song.

7. Kamata: eki in Ōta-ku, Tokyo; where Fuyuko lives.
8. Sōjiji temple in Tsurumi: temple in Yokohama.
9. Utsunomiya 宇都宮:  military outpost in Tochigi-ken
10. Izu nagaoka:
11. Mishima-eki: in Shizuoka-ken, on Izu peninsula.
12. Shizuura- Shizuoka-ken, on Izu peninsula.
13. Mito:
14. … [add to the list as you read]

Historical Timeline

1935: Rapid rise of militarists begins.

1936: Ni-ni-roku jiken 二二 六事件 (“February 26 Incident”): A major coup attempt against the Japanese government by the Imperial Way Faction 皇道派 in which groups of assassins killed or attempted to kill the upper leadership of the government and seize control of key buildings. Fourteen hundred junior military officers took up arms in Tokyo, occupying the Diet, army ministry, and police headquarters. Three cabinet members were killed, including finance minister Takahashi Korekiyo. The rebellion was eventually put down under orders from the emperor.

1937: Rokōkyō jiken 盧溝橋事件 (Marco Polo Bridge Incident): Conflict between Chinese and Japanese troops near the Marco Polo Bridge outside Beijing, which developed into the warfare between the two countries that was the prelude to the Pacific side of World War II. (Britannica Encyclopedia)

1937: Shina jihen 支那事 (“China Incident”): incident that led to large-scale hostilities between Japan and China.

1937: Nanking Massacre 南京大虐殺: a mass murder and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanking, the former capital of the Republic of China.

1938: Establishment of the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement 国民精神総動員運動の設立: Organization established as part of the controls on civilian organizations under the National Mobilization Law by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe.

1938: National General Mobilization Law 国家総動員法: Legislation passed by the Diet of Japan by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe to put the national economy of the Empire of Japan on war-time footing after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The National Mobilization Law had fifty clauses, which provided for government controls over civilian organizations (including labor unions), nationalization of strategic industries, price controls and rationing, and nationalized the news media. The laws gave the government the authority to use unlimited budgets to subsidize war production, and to compensate manufacturers for losses caused by war-time mobilization.

*Note on publication: “‘Mars’ Song’ appeared in Bungakkai but was banned within a week of the magazine’s distribution. Unsold copies were seized, and the magazine was ordered to cease publication temporarily. Eventually, Ishikawa and his editor, Kawakami Tetsutarō (1902-1991), were hauled into Tokyo District Court, where they were fined thirty and fifty yen, respectively—a considerable sum at the time and one that neither could hope to pay. Only through the intervention of Kikuchi Kan (1888-1949), then doyen of Japanese letters and editor-in-chief of the prestigious literary journal Bungei shunjū, were the fines paid and the two men released” (Tyler, LOG, 178)

Study Questions

Answer all of the following.

1. Describe the narrator. What is his relation to the world he inhabits? What does he find lacking in the world at present?

2. Describe the narrative structure of the work. What “metafictional” elements are employed? Is the narrator a “self-conscious narrator”?

3. Reality and fiction are initially presented by the narrator as irreconcilable opposites, yet it soon becomes apparent that they are somehow inseparable. Discuss the relationship between reality and fiction, art and life that is evoked in the work.

4. Discuss the character of Obiko 帯子. What female type (or combination of types) does she represent?

5. Discuss the character Fuyuko 冬子 (her tastes, inclinations, personality, etc.). What are the circumstances surrounding her suicide? Can her life and death—and particularly her hobby of feigning various handicaps—be read as an allegory for something? Also discuss the scene at her funeral wake.

6. Discuss the character Sanji.

7. Describe the mood of the times. What images/symbols/elements of militarism/fascism can you identify in the work?

8. Discuss the motif of refusal/resistance that runs through the work. Explain the context, target, significance, and impact of each act of refusal or resistance.

9. Describe the scene at the aquarium. Are the various species of fish metaphors for something? Explain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember reading somewhere that the song in question was this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hceNfhDFWY