Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Study Guide: Ishikawa Jun “Moon Gems” (Meigetsushu, 1946)

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Study Guide: Ishikawa Jun “Moon Gems” (Meigetsushu, 1946)


Lit 365: Morrison

“There are moments when the radical gesture is to do nothing”–Slavoj Žižek, March 14, 2007 interview with Soft Targets.

Terms/Cultural Particularities

1. 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).

2. Hachimangū 八幡宮。A Shintō shrine dedicated to the gods of war; in this story, probably the Tomioka Hachiman located in the blue-collar Fukagawa district of Tokyo. One of more than sixty Hachiman shrines in Tokyo, the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine 富岡八幡神宮 was built around 1625, and is dedicated to the war god, Hachiman. Many of Japan’s major cities— especially cities that have served at the headquarters of the bakufu military government— have shrines to Hachiman.

3. Firebombing of Tokyo 東京大空襲: A total of sixty-seven Japanese cities were firebombed by US forces during WWII. The firebombing of Tokyo began in early 1945 and continued up through the final days of the war. The worst damage was suffered on Mach 10, 1945, when approximately 100,000 civilians were killed and over 1,000,000 homes destroyed. Other than the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the March 10 Tokyo air raids proved to be the deadliest single attack on the Japanese mainland by US forces. The bombing referred to in this story is the infamous March 10 bombing.

4. Kyōka 狂歌: Mad poems. Waka with a humorous or witty cast of language or thought,” and goes on to note that “word plays involving several meanings were especially popular” (PCJL, 287). The genre, it points out, was intended to “appeal to a popular audience” (287). Among the major collections of kyōka, which is said to begin with the Gyōgetsubō’s Sake Hyakushu in the early 14th century, is the joint work of Ōta Nampo and Akera Kankō, titled Manzai Kyōkashū and compiled in 1783 (361).  The PCJL also notes in the same entry: “Kyōka – ‘mad waka’ – were composed from fairly early times, as early as the Kamakura period. But at that period waka was so highly esteemed that ‘mad waka’ was a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. That fact explains why kyōka really developed in Muromachi, and chiefly in Edo, times. Given the cultivation necessary to effect difference, and the desire to write poems that made the difference, it will be clear that the practice was chiefly that of the warrior aristocracy and of learned townspeople (360).

5. Ōta Nanpo 大田南畝 (1749-1823), aka Shokusanjin 蜀山人:  a late Edo writer of kyōka and kyōshi poetry, who also wrote kokkeibon, hanashibon, kibyōshi and other kinds of prose. He is best remembered though for his seminal works of poetry, most notably Shokusan hyakushu 蜀山百首 (1818), Manzaishū 万歳集 (A Thousand Centuries of Kyōka, 1783), and Neboke sensei bunshū 寝惚先生文集 (Professor Sleepy Head’s Poems, 1767) (PCJL, 216). According to Tyler, he was “the grand master of the kyōka coteries,” and was both a “samurai bureaucrat and a literary light” (188). He was to twentieth-century writers Ishikawa and Kafū the supreme model of Edo culture and elegance, admired for his “anti-establishment stance and iconoclastic humor, his cultivated air of aloofness, his uncompromising adroitness at playing the game of public versus private personae (omote/ura), his disdain for personal revelation, and his ability to generate fictions or fabrications that have an artistic integrity independent of the author’s life” (189). In a time when the I-novel dominated literary salons, “Ishikawa surely found Nanpo’s ‘shadowless’ transparency to be enviably cool” (189).

6. Epiphany: “A Moment of sudden insight. With an upper case ‘e’, Epiphany is a Christian festival that celebrates the appearance of Christ in this world to the Magi, and is celebrated on January 6. In a literary context, it retains a sense of higher, sometimes mystical awareness of how the world actually is (a form of subjective truth). There are many authors, such as George Herbert and William Wordsworth, whose poems seem to contain epiphanic moments. But the term is specifically associated with James Joyce, who used the term himself, and whose characters (particularly those in Dubliners) undergo moments of epiphany. Joyce thought it was the writer’s task to record these flashes of truth when they appear” (Auger, 100).

7. Transcendent Impulse: My term for the impulse (toward transcendence or some sort of mystical experience) that is discernible in many of Ishikawa’s narrators. Needless to say, this impulse is always thwarted by the conditions of reality.

8. Emperor Mu of the Zhou Dynasty (周穆王; circa 985-907 BC) and the Eight Stallions:  “The Eight horses of Emperor Mu was a popular decoration on porcelain from the Transitional into the Yongzheng period (1723-35). The story originates from a historical romance, the Mu tianzhi zhuan (An Account of Emperor Mu), which describes the journeys of the fifth emperor of the Zhou dynasty (1023-983 BC) during which he met Xi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West, at Yaozhi (the Jade Pond).
During these travels the emperor’s chariot was pulled by eight horses named after the color of their hair. Another account, the fourth-century book the Shiyiji (Researches into Lost Records) has it that the horses’ names reflected their unusual talents; Number 1 gallops without touching the ground; Number 2 runs faster than birds; Number 3 goes especially fast at night; Number 4 goes as fast as the shadow of the sun; Number 5 is especially well-groomed with a splendid mane; Number 6 runs so fast that one can see a row of ten images of him; Number 7 rides on a cloud; Number 8 has wings.
The Eight Horses of Wang Mu became a popular subject among later poets and artists and a symbol for the vehicle or journeys of any emperor (Gotheborg).

9. The Toribeno Cemetary 鳥辺野: the customary site for cremation and burial in Kyoto, in the western slopes of Higashiyama. It appears in Genji monogatari and is referred to in the Hōjōki.

10. Bunjin 文人: Literati; Japanese term equivalent to the Chinese wenren, designating those who devoted themselves to studying literature and the arts” (Frédéric, 91).

11. Superfluous Man (or lishny chelovek in Russian): “a character type whose frequent recurrence in 19th-century Russian literature is sufficiently striking to make him a national archetype. He is usually an aristocrat, intelligent, well-educated, and informed by idealism and goodwill but incapable, for reasons as complex as Hamlet’s, of engaging in effective action” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Though Watashi gives us no clues regarding his family’s social status, he certainly fits the rest of this description.

Study Questions
Answer all of the following.

1. Describe the narrative structure. Where is the narrator situated temporally in relation to the events he is describing?

2. Give a concise summary of the story.

3. Discuss the symbolic significance of the bicycle. Discuss Watashi’s interaction with it.

4. Describe the character referred to as “Boots.” What ideas/institutions does he embody? How is he a marked contrast to Watashi?

5. Describe the persona of the narrator. Is he a comic or tragic figure?

6. Discuss the epiphany-like scene on page 48. Consider it in relation to the following scene in which Watashi has his first successful ride.

7. Discuss the significance of the title. What do the moon, moonbeams, etc. represent to the narrator? Identify and discuss other associated images in the work.

8. Describe the young girl and her relationship with Watashi. Why does she say “we won” (52) after the bombing raid?

9. Can this story be read as an allegory? Explain.

10. Explain the significance of poetry/kyōka in the story. Why is Watashi able to compose comic verse again by the end of the story?

11. Discuss the character Gūka. What is Gūka to Watashi?

12. Discuss the ending. Why is Watashi now ready to give away the bike?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

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

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


Lit 365: Morrison

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.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886-1965), “The Tattooer” (Shisei刺青, 1910)

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Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886-1965), “The Tattooer” (Shisei刺青, 1910)


Lit 231: Morrison

Tanizaki Jun’ichirō谷崎潤一郎 (1886-1965): Edokko; born to wealthy chōnin father (owner of publishing company) in Nihonbashi; a botchan in early years, but family fortunes soon declined; had to drop out of 帝大 in 1911; literary career begins in 1909; married in 1915, but soon bores of her; encourages her to have affair with Satō Haruo (Odawara jiken); obsession with West, aestheticism; moves to cosmopolitan Yokohama in 1922: lives bohemian lifestyle; dabbles in film industry, script writing, 純映画劇運動 (pure film movement); reputation really takes off after 1923 Kantō daishinsai quake (old Tokyo disappears, never to return; his attention moves from West to Kansai); between 1924 and 1934, writes Chijin no ai, In’ei raisan, Manji, Tade kū mushi, Yoshino kuzu, Ashikari, Shunkinshō; this period corresponds to the general trend of Nihon kaiki (yet maintains modernist inclinations); during war: Genji monogatari gendaiyaku and Sasame yuki (portrait of four daughters of a wealthy family slowing slipping in stature); awarded bunka kunshō (order of culture) in 1949; continues to pursue his favorite themes in later novels: longing for mother/ideal woman; male masochism; sexuality/perversion; fantasy in old age; his eternal ideal female archetypes: Western-ish femme fatale throughout early period, then the traditional ningyō-like woman, then the lost mother, then the noblewoman behind screen . . .

Terms/Particularities of Culture

1. Horimono/irezumi: traditional Japanese tattooing; can be traced back to Jōmon period for religious purposes, then as punishment in Kofun period (300-600AD); began to develop as art form during mid-Edo period, influenced by popularity of Japanese translation of Suikoden (Water Margin; 14th century; one of four great classical novels of Chinese literature), which features heroes who have their deeds inscribed into their bodies; flourished among merchant class, wealthy merchants; horimono artists included many ukiyo-e artists; outlawed at beginning of Meiji, thus outlaw associations of tattoos; legalized again in 1948.

2. “Cruel Empress Chou of Shang Dynasty” (1600-1047 BC): reference to the sadistic and depraved King Zhou 商紂王 and Daji 妲己, who reigned from 1075-1046 BC and brought Shang dynasty to ruin. The empress is an archetype in Chinese history of selfish, sadistic consort who controls emperor through her charms, and leads the country to ruin.

3. Aestheticism, or “the Aesthetic Movement” (definition provided by Professor Yiu): A European phenomenon during the latter nineteenth century that had its chief philosophical headquarters in France.  Its roots lie in the German theory, proposed by Kant (1790), that the pure aesthetic experience consists of a “disinterested” contemplation of an aesthetic object without reference to its reality, or to the “external” ends of its utility or morality.  Rallying cries included “poem per se”—a “poem written solely for the poem’s sake,” (Edgar Allan Poe) and “art for art’s sake.”  This movement also stresses the “autonomy” and “all-importance” of art (M.H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms).
         Tanizaki’s story paved the way for other literary works that celebrated art for art’s sake and the artist’s unwavering devotion to his craft.  [This story] and Akutagawa’s “Hell Screen” (Jigokuhen 地獄変, 1918) are often grouped together as works of the Aesthetic School (tanbi-ha 耽美派) and are seen not only as harbingers of modernism in prose but also as the beginnings of opposition to the literary school of Naturalism (shizen-shugi 自然主義) and the narrative style of the I-novel, which emphasized flat, unvarnished, and sincere depiction in contrast to the new, spectacle-driven narrative style of the modernists (William Tyler, Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan 1913-1938, University of Hawaii Press, 2008, p. 25.).

More on aestheticism: sensibility/philosophy of life and of art; English literary and artistic movement culminating in 1890s (Oscar Wilde/Walter Pater most extravagant proponent); a stage in development of Romanticism; related to symbolism; reaction to Naturalism; generally anti-commercial, anti-didactic, anti-democratic, anti-bourgeois, anti-“religion of progress” tone, anti-bunmeikaika; tends to emphasize hedonism, occult, and prefer spiritual, transcendental over material. Aestheticism has its roots in Kant’s postulate from Critique of Judgment (1790) of the “disinterestedness” (no personal interest) of aesthetical judgment, and the irrelevance of concepts to the intuitions of the imagination (i.e. emphasizes intuition/sense/imagination over rational intellect).  Music is the ideal art form, as it is most immaterial, removed from quotidian; “to become like music is aspiration of all arts” says Schopenhauer, then Walter Pater)It holds that the pursuit of beauty the main task in life; l’art pour l’art (love of art for its own sake). Aestheticist writers usually regard themselves as an alienated minority, scornful of masses (Seikichi is no exception).

4. Aesthetic Movement in Japan (tanbiha 耽美派): Poe, Baudelaire influences; fin-de-siècle; diabolism (akumashugi); Tanizaki, Akutagawa, Satō Haruo, Kajii Motojirō, Nagai Kafū, Edogawa Rampo; centered around Keiō (Mitabungaku) vs. Waseda bungaku (Naturalists); urban, cosmopolitan, sophisticated.

5. The Edo Period (1603-1868), particularly the decades of Bunka and Bunsei (1804-1829):Tanizaki presents this as a time when wit and pleasure were highly esteemed—as were women who were depicted on stage, for example, in heroic roles in plays like The Female Sadakurō (Onna Sadakurō), The Female Jiraiya, and The Woman Thunder.  It was an age of liberalism, affluence, and urbanity worthy of being reclaimed not in xenophobic retreat to the past but through rediscovery of a modernity latent and detectable within pre-Meiji history.  Like many novelists writing in the years following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, Tanizaki was disenchanted with the economic and human costs that accrued to an imperial power intent on building an international empire.  In looking to the past for a different model of the future, he presents the townsman culture of the Edo period as an artistic and societal alternative to the policies of the Meiji establishment.  Needless to say, in presenting his view of Edo as far nobler, he erases any vestige of the feudalistic authoritarianism historically associated with the samurai class, Neo-Confucianism, and the Tokugawa shogunate (Tyler 2008, p.25).
         Bunka/Bunsei (1804-1829): the last great era before crisis decades of Tokugawa era; Edo period’s second flourishing of urban cultural scene, the first being Genroku (1688-1704) (a view contested by recent Tenmei-focused literary historians); painters Shiba Kōkan, Sharaku; writers Takizawa Bakin, Shikitei Sanba, Jippensha Ikku; arts of this period characterized by down to earth, vernacular style; popular appeal; common everyday themes; lavish habits of Tokugawa shogun Ienari spread to public (post Matsudaira Sadanobu).

6. Fetish/ Fetishism:  A fetish is something, such as a material object or an often nonsexual part of the body that arouses or gratifies sexual desire.  A fetishism is the displacement of sexual arousal or gratification to a fetish. (1) broad definition in psychoanalysis: any activity that deviates from heterosexual intercourse; (2) a non-sexual part of body or thing that is highly charged with libido/sex drive (foot, pillow, ear, etc.). According to Freud a fetish is a substitute for mother’s penis that boy/girl once believed in (i.e. she lost it, got to find it, before I lose it too). Fetishism is usually found in men, often accompanied by aversion to real female genitals. In Shisei, Seikichi finds replacement for mother’s penis in girl’s foot.

7. Archetype: Applied to narrative designs, character types, or images which are said to be identifiable in a wide variety of works of literature, as well as in myths, dreams, and even ritualized modes of social behavior.  (Abrams, pp.11-12). A central term in Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, introduced in his 1919 work. Based on idea that there are “primordial and universal images that make up the contents of the collective consciousness.”

8. Ero-guro-nansensu (Erotic-grotesque-nonsense): A spontaneous artistic and narrative style, strategy and movement that came in vogue in the 1910s-1930s as a new form of expression in defiance of the introspective nature and unadorned language of the Naturalist movement.  Playful, evocative, at times vulgar and absurd, it aims at entertaining and shocking the reader and the viewer in an age of nouveau art and literary forms. Literary and artistic movement in 1920s and 1930s Japan; “prewar, bourgeois cultural phenomenon that devoted itself to explorations of the deviant, the bizarre, and the ridiculous” (Reichart); focus on eroticism, sexual corruption, decadence; Taisho popular culture (roots in ukiyoe, shunga).  Challenged state ideology, bourgeois conservative values; Edogawa Rampo; traces today in manga, anime, etc.

9. Femme Fatale (lit, “deadly woman”): Mysterious, charming, seductive, often dangerous even deadly female archetype. Examples from history/literature: Eve, Lilith, Delilah, Cleopatra, other “dark ladies” from antiquity; film noir females.

10. Mimetic theory of art: Views/evaluates art in relation to real world; the value of art is determined by the extent to which it accurately mirrors reality.

11. Masochism/sadism: Tanizaki’s great theme; Krafft-Ebing first to provide detailed account of masochism in Psychopathia Sexualis (1886). Word itself comes from Sacher-Masoch’s book Venus in Furs. Krafft-Ebing’s classic study of sexual perversion was introduced to Japan in 1914, translated as 『変態性慾心理』 and immediately banned. The modern use of the word hentai began around this time. (An earlier translation had appeared in 1894, under the title Shikijōkyōhen.) What does masochist want?satisfaction through unpleasantness/pain). Freud’s gives three types of masochist: erotogenic (sexual pleasure linked with pain), feminine masochism (acting the subservient “bitch”), and moral masochism (desire to experience guilt). Seikichi seems to be erotogenic (he wants her to stomp on his face). Tanizaki’s great insight into human relations: romantic relations are always negotiated in terms of power.

Study Questions (Provided by Professor A. Yiu)

Answer all of the following.

1. Identify the age (time period) and place (setting) of the narrative. How does Tanizaki comment on the Meiji period through evoking a different time period?

2. What is the atmosphere of that specific age and place? How is that atmosphere  evoked or depicted?

3. Discuss elements of decadence, eroticism, exoticism, fetishism, and sensuality in the text.  In what sense does this work precipitate and embody elements of ero-guro-nansense movement?

4. Discuss the image of the woman as a literary archetype. How is that archetype constructed in the text? How does it serve as a generic archetype as well as a Tanizaki archetype?

5. “Just as the ancient Egyptians had embellished their magnificent land with pyramids
and sphinxes, he was about to embellish the pure skin of this girl” (p. 167). What is the nature of this comparison? Discuss the relationship between art (man-made/tattooing) and nature (not man-made/the woman’s skin) in the text.

6. In insisting on inscribing (tattooing) on nature (the woman’s skin) to create art, how does Tanizaki challenge the mimetic theory (art imitates nature) of art?

7. What happens to the tattooer when his work is complete?  Discuss the relationship between the artist and the work of art.  In what sense is this work representative of the tanbi-ha (Aesthetic School)?

Mori Ōgai, “Takasebune” (The Boat on the Takase River, 1916)

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Mori Ōgai, “Takasebune” (The Boat on the Takase River, 1916)


Mori Ōgai 森鴎外(1862-1922), “Takasebune” 高瀬舟 (The Boat on the Takase River, 1916)[1]

My motives (in writing historical fiction) are simple. In studying historical records, I came to revere the reality that was evidenced in them. Any wanton change seemed distasteful to me. This is one of my motives. Secondly, if contemporary authors can write about life “just as it is” and find it satisfactory, then they ought to appreciate a similar treatment of the past.

. . . Just as I disliked changing the reality in history, I became bound by history in spite of myself. Suffering under these bonds, I thought I must break loose from them (my italics).

-Mori Ōgai, “History as it is and history ignored” 歴史そのままと歴史離れ (in The Historical Fiction of Mori Ōgai, pp. 181-2)

Mori Ōgai (1862-1922): Born in Shimane-ken to family of physicians to daimyō; received elite education in neo-Confucian classics. In 1872, he moved in with Nishi Amane, began studying German. Graduates from Tokyo Imperial University medical school, becomes a doctor at 19; reads late-Edo gesaku fiction; sent by army to study in Germany from 1884-1888; encounters European literature; publishes Shigarami sōshi, 1889–1894 and his own book of poetry (Omokage, 1889) in anti-realist, German Romantic vein (Ōgai vs. Tsubouchi); institutes modern literary criticism in Japan based on the aesthetic theories of Karl von Hartmann. In 1890, publishes Maihime. His own exile to Kyushu; appointed surgeon general in 1907; edits Mezamashi gusa, 1892–1909 while serving in army as surgeon; translates works of Goethe, Schiller, Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, and Hauptmann. From 1912–1916: historical stories (rekishi monogatari; e.g. Sanshō dayu, Takasebune). From 1916-death: shiden (literary biographies; e.g. Shibue Chūsai). His literary style is often characterized as Apollonian, rational, stoic, manly, understated.

Terms/Particularities of Culture

1. Showing/depicting and telling: Fictional discourse constantly alternates between showing us what happened and telling us what happened. The purest form of showing is the quoted speech of characters, in which language exactly mirrors the event (because the event is linguistic). (Note: One must be careful, however, that quoted speech does not always have to be exclusively depiction. Depiction often involves the use of metaphor, imagery and detailed description to make a scene or event vivid, as though it is happening in front of our eyes (A.Yiu).

The purest form of telling is authorial or narrative summary, in which the conciseness and abstraction of the narrator’s language effaces he particularity and individuality of the characters and their actions. Summary has its uses; it can, for instance, accelerate the tempo of a narrative, hurrying us through events which would be uninteresting, or too interesting—therefore distracting, if lingered over. (Lodge, The Art of Fiction)

In Japanese narratives, the style of “depicting” approximates the mimetic, representational form of description typically found in 19th century Western orthodox novels, while “telling” is linked to the Japanese narrative and theatrical traditional of “presentational art,” in which the making of an art form (literary, visual, theatrical) is presented in full view to the reader or viewer. The writer does not hide behind the scene; on the contrary, he or she wants you to show you the process of artistic creation by drawing attention to the art of telling (A. Yiu).

Showing/depicting: mimetic; representational; conversations, action, characters’ thoughts transcribed (interior monologue); the preferred method of Western realism. “The purest form of showing is the quoted speech of characters, in which language exactly mirrors the event (because the event is linguistic)” (Lodge). Wayne Booth’s Rhetoric of Fiction (1961; the terms “implied author” and “unreliable author” coined in this work) argues that “showing” is not necessarily better than “telling,” and that all writers employ both.

Telling: non-mimetic; presentational art of tradition Japanese narrative form, in which the act of narration is exposed. “The purest form of telling is authorial or narrative summary, in which the conciseness and abstraction of the narrator’s language effaces the particularity and individuality of the characters and their actions” (Lodge, The Art of Fiction). “Fictional discourse constantly alternates between showing us what happened and telling us what happened” (Lodge). Telling is presentational rather than representational. It includes explanations, historical background passages, summary of events, etc. “[Telling] can, for instance, accelerate the tempo of a narrative, hurrying us through events which would be uninteresting, or too interesting—therefore distracting, if lingered over” (Lodge).

2. Rekishi shōsetsu (historical novellas): Fictional works that deal with historical themes in an artistic or psychological way (usually with contemporary relevance). Ōgai began writing in this genre after Nogi’s junshi suicide in 1912 (partly to make up for thousands of deaths during Russo-Japanese War). To be contrasted with later shiden (his historical biographies). Sanshō dayu, Takasebune, etc.

3. Mimesis: The imitation or representation of nature, esp. in art and literature. Imitation (a basic human instinct) or representation of nature, esp. in art and literature; basis of representational arts, realism. According to Plato’s broad definition, all forms of discourse are mimetic, are shadows of the Ideal. For Aristotle, mimesis is limited to poetry; depiction of men in action. Rhetoric persuades; dialectic establishes truth; Mimesis founds possibility of history and realist fiction. Concept of Realism/Mimesis came under attack in 20th century: so-called “reality” of work demonstrated to be an illusion/trick/ideology; yet the notion still survives today in expanded form. Mimetic (adj.): Using imitative means of representation.

4. Mimetic criticism: Mimetic criticism views the literary work as an imitation, or reflection, or representation of the world and human life, and the primary criterion applied to a work is that of the “truth” of its representation to the objects it represents, or should represent. This mode of criticism, which first appeared in Plato and (in a qualified way) in Aristotle, is characteristic of modern theories of literary realism (Abrams, p. 37). (An example in usage: “This passage conveys the horror of the event in a mimetic form. . .explain the chosen passage).

Mimetic criticism examines work in reference to the external world it is purported to represent (unreal=bad). It “views the literary work as an imitation, or reflection, or representation of the world and human life, and the primary criterion applied to a work is that of the “truth” of its representation to the objects it represents, or should represent. This mode of criticism, which first appeared in Plato and (in a qualified way) in Aristotle, is characteristic of modern theories of literary realisms” (Abrams, 37).

5. Verisimilitude: “seeming-to-be-true-ness”; “the achievement of an illusion of reality in the reader/audience” (Abrams, 201); employed to convince readers of reality of the things represented in the work, to establish credibility; employed in attempt to satisfy even the rational, skeptical reader that the events and characters portrayed are realistic/possible. Different genres have different measurements, standards, and expectations (i.e. what is realistic in comedy may not be in tragedy).

6. Realism: Concept based on assumption that the form (i.e. novel, poem, drama, painting, etc.) mirrors/imitates reality, and that reality is more or less stable and commonly accessible. Realism is most commonly associated with the nineteenth-century novel, which was believed to be uniquely capable of revealing the truth of contemporary life in society. Honoré de Balzac is often credited with pioneering a systematic realism in French literature, through the inclusion of specific detail and recurring characters. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert, Ivan Turgenev represent the zenith of the realist style with their unadorned prose and attention to the details of everyday life. Émile Zola's naturalism is regarded as an offshoot of realism. Tsubouchi Shōyō first to write about realism/realist novel, elaborate on its techniques.

7. Reality Effect: Barthes’ term for details that serve no other purpose than producing the effect of reality; they don’t advance the narrative (in fact, they often interrupt it); their function is to state to reader, “hey, this is real.” Examples in “Takasebune”: Takase River, Kyoto, Osaka, Edo bakufu, Kansei era, real historical records; Ōgai’s comments; narrator’s referring to self as “I.”

8. Verisimilitude. The achievement of an illusion of reality in the reader/audience (Abrams, 201). (An example in usage: “This sentence conveys/embodies verisimilitude in the vividness of its depiction/imagery. . .explain the chosen sentence).

9. Naturalism = Realism + science/post-Darwin biological/social determinism/social theories. Eg: Zola; offshoot of realism.

10. Self-sacrifice (akirame/teinen): common theme in Ōgai’s works after General Nogi’s seppuku in 1912. Ware tada taru o shiru 我唯足知 (written at Ryōanji tsukubai washing basin in Kyoto: I am content with what I have; Might also be interpreted as Ōgai’s warning to proletariat: don’t start getting uppity...). The akirame ideal is embodied here by Kisuke, Kisuke’s brother, then Shōbee. 

11. Kansei era (1789-1801): era of the Tokugawa period; followed Tenmei; saw Kansei reforms (Kansei no kaikaku) of reactionary Matsudaira Sadanobu, the strengthening of sakoku policies, and the prohibition of non-neo-Confucian heterodoxies.

12. Euthanasia 安楽死: no official laws in Japan prohibiting it.

Study Questions

Answer all of the following.

1. Examine the imagery in the opening scene. What kind of atmosphere/world does it create?

2. How does the author tell the story by using a mixture of “telling” and “showing” (depicting)? Give specific examples.

3. How does the text achieve verisimilitude and mimesis? Give specific examples to illustrate you answer.

4. How does “telling” and “depicting” enable the Ōgai to “adhere to history as it is” (rekishi sono mama) and “to break loose from history” (rekishibanare)? If “adhering to history” refers to a kind of documentation, why is it inadequate to Ōgai? If “breaking loose from history” refers to gravitating towards metaphor and rhetoric/poetry, why is it necessary?

5. How does the writer draw your attention to his story-telling?



[1] Included in The Historical Fiction of Mori Ōgai, edited by David Dilworth and Thomas Rimer (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, [1971], 1991).