Panel 1 The Emergence of Domestic Tragedy in England and Japan: a test for Comparative Literature

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The Emergence of Domestic Tragedy in England and Japan: A Test for Comparative Literature
William Lee
One of the most intriguing and potentially most fruitful topics for comparative drama studies is the domestic tragedy, since not only is the genre found in several European dramatic traditions it also appeared about the same time on the opposite side of the globe, in the kabuki and bunraku (puppet) theatre of Edo-period (1600-1867) Japan. That despite the immense geographical and cultural gulf that separated the two parts of the world there emerged nearly simultaneously new dramatic genres with similar features raises intriguing questions, not only about the necessary conditions for domestic tragedy, but also about the comparatist enterprise itself. This paper will be an attempt to formulate some of these questions as well as propose some provisional answers. It takes as its Western example Lillo’s The London Merchant (1731), the play that more than any other established the genre in Europe. Building on some recent critical readings of this play, it will be argued that The London Merchant is not a simple didactic piece but a play that problematizes the mercantilist ethic it espouses and repeatedly risks undermining its apparent moral. This will be compared to the “contemporary-life plays” (sewamono) of Japanese playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724), which also feature merchant and prostitute characters and which can be read as warnings against a socio-economic order based on profit and self-interest. It will further be argued that this apparent similarity provides a useful test case for the value of comparative studies, and that the test in this case hinges on whether the emergence of similar forms is merely coincidental or whether it can be positively related to common socio-economic conditions or cultural production practices.

Sumida-gawa or a miracle play: nothing is but what is not
Makiko Shikimachi
On the way of making his operatic world more peculiar and strictly, Benjamin Britten (1903-73) did not hesitate to get informative inspiration globally. Therefore his journey toward the East could provide the certain opportunities, however, on account of his rigid pacifism, Britten had a strong prejudice against Japan and Japanese culture even though he landed on Japan in 1956 with his close company.
After viewing noh-play Sumida-gawa twice (according to Britten’s comment that he was lucky enough during his brief stay there to see two different performances of the same play- Sumidagawa.’), his strong aspiration to resuscitate the good medieval English musical traditions evoked clearly.
Although Britten claimed in his program notes for the premiere of Curlew River (1964) that ‘there is nothing specifically Japanese left in the Parable that William Plomer and I have written,’ it is not hard to imagine that he did not try to go off Sumida-gawa as Curlew River holds respectfully its style and form and even atmosphere. Britten also added in the program notes that ‘if stage and audience can achieve half the intensity and concentration of that original drama I shall be well satisfied.’
My aim in this presentation will be to investigate the mechanics of the representational miracle that attends stage. Sumida-gawa is known as a tragic drama between the suffocated mother and the kidnapped son. The specific question I’ll be addressing is: nothing is but what is not. Needles to say, I will not ignore Britten’s spiritual dimension.
Endless Discussions: Peter Kropotkin in the work of Ishikawa Takuboku’
Cecily Nowell-Smith
"I read Kropotkin and was surprised, for there is no other philosophy so huge and deep and also definite and necessary." So wrote the poet and critic Ishikawa Takuboku (1886-1912), in a letter to a friend in January 1911. The Kōtoku Incident of 1910 was in all likelihood the spur for Takuboku's interest in anarchism, but the emotive force of Kropotkin's writings was a main source of his enthusiasm. His two unpublished critical essays of 1911, "iwayuru konkai no koto" and the "Editor's Notes on a Letter from Prison", cite and quote Kropotkin to persuasive effect.
It was not only in his critical writing that the influence was manifest: Imai Yasuko has persuasively argued that his "After an Endless Discussion" set of shi poems owed a huge debt to scenes in Kropotkin's "Memoirs of a Revolutiuonist". Further, Kropotkin's insistence upon mankind's right to the essentials of life - on "the Conquest of Bread" - suited perfectly Takuboku's belief in the need for a "poetry for eating" (kuu beki shi), a poetry true to life and necessary for life, "like the smell of the meals we eat every day".
In this paper I shall seek to trace the influence of Kropotkin's writing, both polemical and autobiographical, in Takuboku's poetry as well as his criticism. I will discuss the romantic image of the young nihilist, as described by Kropotkin and taken up by Takuboku, at a time when anarchism and socialism were under heavy government suspicion. Further, I wish to investigate how Takuboku's theory of poetry, as manifested in his poems themselves, was affected by Kropotkin's ideas. His focus on real life, on the emotional reality of living and the difficulties of attaining an adequate lifestyle, was not only an aesthetic choice but a political act.

Literary Kharbin: A Cultural Life at the Crossing of “Empires”
Takayuki Yokota-Murakami
Kharbin, originally founded by Russians in the course of the construction of Trans-Siberian railroad as a base for imperial expansion, was at one time one of the most international, culturally refined centers of the world. Its main inhabitants were Russians, Japanese, Chinese, and Mongols, representatives of the “empires” which competed with one another in influence, but the city also housed Jews, Latvians, Germans, Frenchmen, et al. An author, Jiromasa Gunji, formerly well-known for his novel, Samurai Nippon, lived in Kharbin for some months and wrote a novel, Women from Kharbin (1931), in which an interaction of a Japanese writer and (White) Russian women is vividly described. In writing this novel, he was largely inspired by an émigré Russian poet-actor-singer, Aleksandr Vertinsky, who was once a guest of Karbin, and quoted his poems in abundance, making his novel both an intertextual and transnational entity. By analyzing the rather decadent texts of the novel itself and Vertinsky’s poems, in which the protagonists are a variety of people in the margin: expatriates, social dropouts, déraciné artists, political and economic refugees, Jewish immigrants, sexual victims, and so on, and by examining the political/racial/gender/cultural consciousnesses in them in the background of this highly hybrid and precarious cosmopolitan city, I will attempt to throw a light on the cultural dynamics of national contacts/conflicts and on some features of polities of the Japanese Empire, and, eventually, to suggest the possibility of reading Japanese literature as diasporic.

Occupation, Memory, Nation: The Narrative of Sawako Ariyoshi’s Hishoku
Jiyoung Kim
Ariyoshi Sawako (1931-1984) is one of the most prominent and prolific postwar Japanese women writers, whose provocative literary works, however, remain yet to be examined in detail. My presentation explores Ariyoshi’s project of re-writing history in her novel Hishoku (1964), which provokes far-reaching insights into the “nation”.

Hishoku recounts the life story of war bride Emiko, who married an African-American GI. Adopting the first-person narrative of a war bride, a voice which has been historically ignored, combined with her narrated reflections on racial minorities, Ariyoshi pluralizes and re-writes “History,” in other words, writes “Herstory,” which purports history from women’s standpoint according to the author.

Yet, it was not merely counter-narrating the narrative of the occupation that the text took on. Whereas most Japanese literary works depicting the occupation take place within the border of the Japanese nation, the narrative of Hishoku further reaches out to Emiko’s experience of displacement. The transformative experience of the racial/national identity of the narrator Emiko in the story marks a shift in the boundaries of the nations. This raises another question: Is it ever possible to assume a fixed identity or boundary for the nation?

By bringing attention also to the narrative quality of the text, an autobiography with an implied audience of the Japanese people, I intend to elucidate what Emiko’s narrative of personal memory addresses to Japan’s national memory. Along the way, I will shed light on how gender and race comes together in Ariyoshi’s writing of “Herstory” as well.
Ideological Conversion and War Contemplations in Early Shōwa Japan: The Case of Kamei Katsuichirō
Chia-ning Chang
My paper presents a critical analysis of the literary and historical significance of a major modern Japanese autobiography My Spiritual Wanderings (Waga seishin no henreki, 1951), a self-styled “autobiography of sin” (tsumi no ishiki no jiden) by Kamei Katsuichirō (1907-66), a cultural and literary critic and an eminent figure in postwar Japanese letters. It tells the story of the author’s moral and political struggles and his religious experiences from childhood in the 1910s, through adolescence and young adulthood in the 1920s and 1930s, until Japan’s defeat in World War II and its aftermath. Kamei’s reminiscences reconstruct the portrait of a well-bred but guilt-ridden young man from a prestigious upper-middle class family before he turned into a Marxist activist in his late teens and early twenties, and continue with his activities as a member of the Japanese Communist Party, his arrest by the Japanese police, and his subsequent two and a half-year solitary confinement in a Tokyo jail for political prisoners. In a state of physical and spiritual captivity, he began a series of self-reflections, first on his pubic posture and private role as a “socialist” intellectual and then on the dialectic of ideological betrayal and martyrdom, comparing his early Shōwa experiences with the various predicaments of the existentialist philosopher Les Shestov, Dostoevsky, and even the Biblical Judas. He proceeded to scrutinize his anguished response toward the Pacific War, Japanese visions of Empire, and the cultural manifestations of Japanese imperialism while meditating on the possibility for religious faith to achieve spiritual salvation. In the process, not only did he furnish a stirring testimony of his own intellectual and spiritual metamorphosis, he also situated his experiences in the entangled rhetoric and dynamic of war, realpolitik, ideology, moral existence, Buddhist teachings, and spiritual redemption. I also wish to contextualize Kamei’s experiences within a broader international context, drawing the example of Günter Grass’ autobiography and his revelation after August 2006 of his 1944-45 draft into the Waffen-SS at the age of seventeen.

French Decadence/Tanizakian Decadence”
Leslie Winston
Japanese author Tanizaki Jun’ichirô (1886-1965) is best known for his provocative full-length novels, but his early short stories and novellas from the 1910s are gold mines of heterodox sexuality in the vein of the French Decadence movement, which began in the 1880s. This paper will explore both the elements of decadence in the paradigmatic French novel À Rebours (Against the Grain) by Joris-Karl Huysmans’ and how Tanizaki uses this literary ideology to craft his early and overlooked work.

I take the position that Tanizaki’s short stories, such as “Himitsu” (“The Secret,” 1911) and “Konjiki no shi” (“The Golden Death,” 1914), while developing themes of “deviant” sexualities evocative of French Decadence, adhere more closely to the formal properties of the novel, in terms of structure, plotting, and the depiction of the hero, than Huysmans’ novel. A second claim of this paper is that Tanizaki’s use of more conventional practices complicates his so-called anti-Naturalist stance since Naturalist literature also adheres to many of these same conventions. Moreover, Tanizaki exploits the Naturalist notion of heredity as predestined and degenerative, as deployed in À Rebours (and in Shimazaki Tôson’s Ie [The Family, 1910-11], to mention a contemporaneous Naturalist prose work). Tanizaki’s work can be aptly described as hybrid in his embrace of Decadent (and Naturalist) themes and Decadent heroes while deploying them in a classic novel structure.

Modernism and Death in the Writing of Kajii Motojiro

Steven Dodd

Kajii Motojiro was born in 1901, and wrote only about 20 short stories before dying of TB in 1932.  He is best known today in Japan and (if at all) in the West for his short story, Lemon, written in 1925. While the brevity of his period of literary activity is undeniable, his short stories stand out both in terms of their fascinating narrative plots, and their use of an undeniably beautiful poetic prose style. The time of his writing, the 1920s, was a brief but very significant moment for Japanese literature when two literary movements in particular the Modernist-inspired Neo-Sensationalists (Shinkankaku-ha) and writers of Proletarian Literature (Puroretaria bungaku) were disputing definitions of self and other, how best to articulate links between individual and wider society and, just as importantly, the literary medium most suited to express such relationships.  Today I want to concentrate on the extent to which Kajii, as a 1920s writer, might be usefully viewed as a Modernist.  Though he claimed to be unimpressed by the experimental writings of Yokomitsu Riichi, Japan’s most prominent Modernist author, Kajii’s stories often articulate Modernist elements.  For instance, he pays great attention to a highly aestheticized literary style that suggests a distinctly Modernist impulse to locate an epiphany in language itself.  For this paper, I will suggest that Japanese Modernism in the 1920s may be more clearly understood through an examination of several themes very much under discussion in Japanese literary and intellectual circles of the time; namely, death, destruction, and violent reconstruction.  I will conclude with a brief examination of how Kajii gave concrete expression to these themes in his literature.


The Transformation of the Japanese “Magical”
Shu Sakaguchi
It has been decades since the phrase “the end of the modern novel” became common in Japan. One of the criterions that would demarcate the contemporary from the modern is whether or not “the magical" is inherent in the construction of the novelistic reality.

Within the framework of modernism, we already have “magical realism” as a style representing “the magical”. As it went through the postwar history, however, in which manifestation of the highly mature mass consumer society was not to be denied, a variation needs to be extracted from the originally ambiguous “the magical” and redefined. This new lineage is where the principle of “the pop” presides over.

In the 1970s, the narrowly defined magical realism became apparent in some Japanese writers, in step with the global popularity of the Latin American literature. This was perhaps a secondary fruit of nostalgia, however, bearing from the soil of “the pop”, whose vein would eventually merge with the stylistic influence of manga (comics) ---- the very sophisticated “pop” representation as well as the alternative embodiment of magical realism. The post-1980s literature assimilates more or less the “manga-style realism” in its constitution.
This paper, by tracing it back to the about-1960 works written by such seemingly-not-pop writers as Fukazawa Shichiro and Kawabata Yasunari, in the era when Japan was fitting into the center of the world capitalistic system, will explore how “the Japanese magical” came into being, transformed itself in the global context, and how it is facing its end.

Myth and desert in a Japanese Apocalypse. H: A Hiroshima Novel by Oda Makoto
Paola Di Gennaro
Oda Makoto’s H: A Hiroshima Novel (Hiroshima, 1984) offers interesting interpretative possibilities to the theme of apocalypse in a non-Western context. As with the accounts of creation, the narratives of apocalypse shape and are shaped by archetypal myths, retraceable in many different traditions. In particular, the concept of an ‘ending’ implied in the idea of apocalypse is crucial, involving an inescapable human need to impose form on time, as explained by Frank Kermode in The Sense of an Ending. For this paper, I will argue that Oda Makoto’s novel draws on a range of mythological materials in order to portray a kind of archetypal pattern, set in a symbolic wasteland. The author makes use of myths and religious beliefs to give resonance to a story – both personal and collective – which seems to be as absurd as it is universal. The depiction of characters and settings reflects what I consider both a modernist enchantment for past tradition and a postmodernist disenchantment with it. The novel pursues the modernist tendency to rediscover ancient culture in order to make manifest the absences in the present; nonetheless, it also represents a postmodernist fragmentation that affects both characters and places, rendering them archetypal but also ironically hopeless at the same time. The subject of the paper will be, therefore, the relation of H with both Japanese and Western apocalyptic models, how they inform its structure in creating a black aporia, in which circularity merges with tragic ends, mythical apocalypse with actual history.

Bodily Engagement with Globalization; The Hyper-personal Critical Fiction of Tawada Yoko and Shono Yoriko”
Robin Tierney
My paper examines the literary texts and cultural contexts of the acclaimed contemporary Japanese writers Tawada Yoko and Shono Yoriko, and argues that the models for productive engagement with globalization found in their creative projects comprise an emerging genre of “critical-fiction.” While Japanese writing is typically not included in the categories of “World-Bank Literature” or “Border-Crossing literature” (Tatsumi 2004), I argue that the fiction of Tawada and Shono is shaping Japan’s emerging global literature. Situated between the specificity of the Japanese language and machinations of global proportions - neo-liberal economic policies, in the case of Shono, and multi-lingual translation, in the case of Tawada - the imaginaries of both writers partake of an understanding of the body as an open entity that can simultaneously experience multiple systems of value and jam processes of homogenization. Tawada and Shono craft schemas for creative experimentation and embodied praxis; Shono’s “konpira” figure, mobilized by vengeful spirits, can not be separated from her acerbic one-woman, twelve-year campaign in defense of non-commercial literature that led to her becoming the subject of the special gendaishiso issue, “Shono-Yoriko: The Imaginary to Overcome Neo-liberalism” (Winter 2007) in which activists and academics from the social sciences praise her prescience; and Tawada’s oft-repeated image of “not traversing over, but living in, the ditch that separates two languages” can not be separated from her elected immigration to Germany where she revels in writing and performing in her non-native German and where she has garnered far more critical attention from scholars of German literature than of Japanese literature.

I argue that these writers have produced a corpus through which Japanese literature can be understood as participating in the conversation on globalization, not as so much cultural cache for increasingly cosmopolitan consumers, but as a literature that is itself commenting upon the globalizing process.

Literature of No Compromise: Japanese Postmodern Fictions and Weltliteratur
Norimasa Morita
In the introduction to the English translation of Karatani Kojin’s Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, Fredric Jameson claims, ‘the modern novel [in Japan] first arises not as an autonomous development but as a compromise between a western formal influence (usually French or English) and local materials.’ Franco Moretti modifies this idea of the compromise between western form and local content and offers a perspective of peripheral literatures consisted of a tripartite rather than binary compromise among western form (plot), local content (character) and local form (narrative voice). These two models may well apply to Japanese novels written roughly between 1880 and 1980 but not to the works of the writers who adopt postmodern literary idioms and devices such as Takahashi Gen’ichiro, Tanaka Yasuo, Shimada Masahiko and Murakami Haruki. For postmodern fictions, the binary (or triple) relationship between western form and local content, foreign conventions and indigenous materials, and world and national literature is no longer of much relevance. Postmodern fictions are weltliteratur as their canonical authors come both from the traditional literary ‘centre’ (American and French postmodernist writers) and from its margins (Walter Abish from Israel, Borges and Julio Cortazar from Argentina, Carlos Fuentes from Mexico, Marquez from Columbia, and Japanese writers above.) Because one of the greatest concerns of postmodern fictions is questioning and bracketing the ontological certainty of what they represent in themselves, such spatial categories as centre and periphery, west and local, and world and national too have little significance to them. In this paper I would like to show that hardly any crack between western literary form and local content is found and, therefore, no need for compromise is felt in the Japanese postmodern fictions and then argue that they may have come to form part of weltliteratur called postmodern literature.

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