Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Study Guide: Natsume Sôseki 夏目漱石, Ten Nights of Dream (夢十夜, 1908)


Note the imagery, metaphors, symbols, etc. used in the third night of dream. Refer to the definitions of the following terms while reading the text.

1. Imagery: This term is one of the most common in modern criticism, and the most ambiguous. Its applications range all the way from “the mental pictures” which are experienced by the reader of a text, to the totality of elements which make up a text. According to C. Day Lewis in Poetic Image, an image “is a picture made out of words,” and that “a poem may itself be an image composed from a multiplicity of images.

2. Image-clusters, image motifs, thematic imagery: Repeated groupings of metaphors and similes in a text to convey meaning, such as the maritime imagery in the seventh night of Ten Nights of Dream.

3. Metaphor: In a metaphor, a word which in standard usage denotes one kind of thing, quality, or action is applied to another, in the form of an identity instead of comparison. E.g. “My love is a red, red rose.” In the seventh night, “sailing” is a metaphor in that it denotes not only the action itself but some other hidden meaning about “embarking on a voyage in modernity (modern times).” Metaphors/similes in this work: red as a newt; like a mirror; Jizou stone; etc.

4. Symbols: Roughly speaking, anything that “stands for” something else is a symbol, but the process operates in many different ways. Literary symbolism is not easily decoded because it tries to be original and tends towards a rich plurality, even ambiguity, of meaning. Some of the symbols in this work: the blind boy (burden of the past, eternal reminder of past sin); the narrator (contemporary Japan, haunted by past crime); dark forest (uncertain/dark future); etc.

Note: According to kokubungaku scholars, the idea of killing a blind man, being cursed, and having one’s boy turn to a Jizō stone is borrowed from a comic play by Kawatake Mokuami and a kaidan ghost story by Tsuruya Nanboku.

5. Shōhinbun 小品文: between shōsetsu 小説 and zuihitsu 随筆; originally Ming-dynasty Chinese form characterized by informal anti-vulgar/anti-political cultivated enclosed-individualist style, popular in Britain/China/Japan in 1930s. The form incorporated elements of kikōbun, nikki, zuihitsu, and hyōron. “Belles-lettres” literary vignettes, filled with personal reminiscences; take place at Natsume home; construction of literary persona/stand-in/surrogate (as opposed to naturalists “just be me” philosophy); querulous literary persona first displayed in Bunchō (1908); Eijitsu shōhin (1909); Mankan tokorodokoro (1909, about trip to Korea/Manchurian colonies); Omoidasu koto nado (1911; diary/philosophical reflection); Garasudo no uchi (1915; 39 serialized episodes).

6. The Uncanny: Concept/feeling of profound sense of unease about self/world. Destabilized, located in in-between (i.e. dream/reality, etc). Effect usually occurs in familiar places. Uncanny: Something familiar (i.e. the blind son) has become alien to one (the narrator) through process of repression.

7. Allegory: an extended metaphor; comprised of structural (rather than textual) symbolism. In an allegory the characters/action/scenery corresponds more or less directly to certain spiritual/political/psychological struggles. Each of Souseki’s ten dreams are an allegory of modern concerns (3rd dream: reversal of child/parent roles). Narrator burdened/haunted by past crime (killing a blind man 100 yr ago). According to Seats, this is the first Japanese modern “allegorical text.” Other examples: Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland, Kafka’s The Castle, Orwell’s 1984.

8. Foreshadowing: (今に重くなるるよ; in final scene, this actually happens).

9. Dream work: Mechanism that transforms dream’s raw material (physical stimuli, day’s residues, free associations, latent content i.e. dream thoughts) into manifest content (the censored/fragmented/impoverished/translated recounted dream). The latent content is only knowable through analysis of manifest content and patient’s free associations. Analyst’s job=literary critic’s job.

10. Modernization: characterized by industrialization, decline of agrarian society, urbanization, alienation, transformation in the family as a unit, rise of individualism. Also, the development of modern science, scientific method of investigation (observation, hypothesis, experimentation, verification), secularization, rationalization. For non-Western societies, modernization is inextricably tied in with Westernization.

11. Oedipus Complex: For Freud, the childhood desire to sleep with the mother and to kill the father. Freud describes the source of this complex in his Introductory Lectures (Twenty-First Lecture): "You all know the Greek legend of King Oedipus, who was destined by fate to kill his father and take his mother to wife, who did everything possible to escape the oracle's decree and punished himself by blinding when he learned that he had none the less unwittingly committed both these crimes" (16.330). According to Freud, Sophocles' play, Oedipus Rex, illustrates a formative stage in each individual's psychosexual development, when the young child transfers his love object from the breast (the oral phase) to the mother. At this time, the child desires the mother and resents (even secretly desires the murder) of the father. (The Oedipus complex is closely connected to the castration complex.) Such primal desires are, of course, quickly repressed but, even among the mentally sane, they will arise again in dreams or in literature. Among those individuals who do not progress properly into the genital phase, the Oedipus Complex, according to Freud, can still be playing out its psychdrama in various displaced, abnormal, and/or exaggerated ways. (Purdue University Introductory Guide to Critical Theory)

1. M.H. Abrams. A Glossary of Literary Terms, Fourth Edition. New York: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, (1941), 1981.
2. David Lodge. The Art of Fiction. London: Penguin Books, 1992.
3. M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic: Theory and Critical Tradition
(New York: The Norton Library, W.W. Norton and Co., 1958). Four elements basic to the total situation of art: (1) the artist, (2) the work itself (formal aspects), (3) the world the work creates or reveals, (4) the audience the work affects.

Particularities of Culture

1. “fifth year of Bunka”: 1808, beginning of the end bakufu, foreign threats
2. Higakubo日ヶ窪: district in present day Azabu, Minato-ku.
3. Hottawara 堀田原: old name for a district in Asakusa.
4. Jizō地蔵: guardian of abandoned/orphaned children.

Study Questions

Answer all of the following questions.

1. Identify the imagery in the third night. What kind of imagery is used in the text? What kind of atmosphere does the imagery create?

2. Are the images linked or related in a certain way? Do they form an image cluster to suggest a particular atmosphere?

3. Note the narrator and the narrative voice. From whose perspective do we perceive events

 in the story? Do we ever go beyond that perspective? What is the effect of the controlling 

narrative  perspective? Bear in mind this narrative perspective and contrast it with other 

stories in the course.

4. Why ghost stories in an age of rapid modernization (or what was called the age of

 “civilization and enlightenment” 文明開化)?

5. Describe the personality and behavior of the blind boy. What does he stand for? Examine 

the boy as a literary symbol.

6. Should we read these episodes as fiction or actual dreams? (Critic Sasabuchi argues that only Dream #3 is based on an actual dream, and that we should read these as creative fiction, and not clinical documents.) What do you think?

7. How is this story an inversion of the Oedipus complex?

8. Interpret the story as an historical allegory. What does the boy symbolize? What does the narrator symbolize? How do they relate to each other symbolically?


Anonymous said...

Here are the summaries of the other stories in the collection:

Summaries of Other Dreams

Dream 1. Dying woman orders man to dig hole and bury her and wait hundred years for her to return; she finally appears as “pure white lily.” Fantastic elements: star fragments, oyster shell as shovel, 100 condensed/made strange,

Dream 2. Englightenment-seeking samurai visits priest, Buson painting on wall, loses mind.

Dream 4. Child follows old man with snake to river, where he drowns before showing him the snake; proprietress interrogates old man. Fantastic/surreal elements: proprietress asks what child was silent wondering; he responds he is from his omphalos; his breath indicates wear he is headed;

Dream 5. Narrator-warrior in age of gods captured, brought before “tall” enemy general, chooses death, but one last wish to see his love, who falls over cliff with horse after devil impersonates bird (I survives); Surrealist imagery: campfire attached to sky;

Dream 6. Possibly Kamakura period—no, Meiji. Meiji-era narrator goes to see unconcerned Kamakura-era Unkei carve Nio at Toyama-ken temple, watches him carve, is inspired, tries it out himself but fails “to find Nio inside wood”;

Dream 7. Narrator aboard ship heading in unknown direction, chasing setting sun; narrator jumps off ship, regrets it. allegory for historical situation. Fantastic/surrealistic elements: note changes in water color;

Dream 8. Narrator goes to barber, watches seen outside of Shotaro in panama hat, with woman, goldfish vendors, etc.

Dream 9. House with boy and mother, father gone. With son on back, Mother prays at Hachimangū for safety of samurai husband, who, we learn, was slaughtered years ago (I’s mother narrated story in I’s dream).

Dream 10. Ken-san informs I about sukebe/fruit admirer Shoutarou has been sick with fever after after being spirited away for 7 days by woman he escorted home after she buys fruit; he explains to friends that she took him to precipice and commanded him to jump; he refuses, 1000s of pigs attack, he fends them off for 7 days, finally is licked and falled; Ken-san asks for his hat.

John Harwood said...

Thank you for a very interesting and informative article.
I was wondering if you have a citation for the below statement:
"Each of Souseki’s ten dreams are an allegory of modern concerns (3rd dream: reversal of child/parent roles)"
I am currently writing an analysis of the Third Dream and would like to research the parent / child role reversal further if possible.
Many thanks!