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Panel 5 | 12:30-2:30 | ROOM C

12:30-2:30  ~ PANEL 5 ~ ROOM C

5 - Kanji, Haikyo, Kyokō: Imagined Structures and Structured Images

“Writing Entanglements in Yōko Tawada’s Borudō no gikei (Brother-in-Law in Bordeaux),” Brett de Bary, Cornell University

  • If Tawada Yōko’s many works can each be regarded as discrete, although interconnected, writing experiments, then it is the presence and placement of kanji or “Chinese characters” within the German and Japanese texts (both written by Tawada) that is a striking feature of Borudō no gikei/ Schwager in Bordeaux. Published first in 2008, the German language text written by Tawada contains 276 characters as headings or “titles” for component sections of varying lengths. Tawada’s Japanese text, published in the following year, contains a similar layout, although in this book, which reads from left to right, the kanji that appears at the heading of each section is printed as a mirror image of itself. Can we take at face value, and as a kind of “key” to this compositional structure, the narrator/protagonist’s depiction of the notebook she keeps, full of Chinese characters? “I’d like to record everything that happens, but multiple events are always occurring at the same time… So I enter one character for each of them, rather than writing in sentences. By disentangling a single kanji, and you can make up a long story.”

    By way of a consideration of verbal/visual relations, this paper considers several examples of how Tawada “disentangles” or decomposes the Chinese character, weaving its elements into a narrative, in this novel. In so doing, however, Tawada slyly reveals a more fundamental entanglement of visual and verbal/sonic in the so-called “ideograph,” subverting the Orientalist assumption that the Chinese character itself is a sign of visuality and the Asian other.

“Apparitions of Things Past: Haikyo as a Visual Narrative of Consumed Modernity” Ikuho Amano, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • This paper explores the significance of haikyo (ruins, abandoned sites or buildings etc.) as an aesthetic/cultural trope. In recent years, haikyo has allured thousands of visitors each year for their visual uniqueness, and thus become a popular motif for photography. To this end, my analysis draws on the phenomena of so-called haikyo moe and the popularity of haikyo tours, as well as photographed images of ruins. Such scholars as Marilyn Ivy and Jordan Sand have interpreted that, in the context of postwar Japan, some locus of nostalgia (old quarters in cities, for instance), has become cultural capital that can complement the absence of local identity. On the other hand, haikyo belongs beyond the characterization of cultural capital, and is instead imprinted with more diachronic drama on their dead bodies.

    According to Kobayashi Tetsurō, photographer and author of Haikyo Disukabarī [Discovering Ruins] (2008), those who visit haikyo are motivated by an instinct of witnessing something frightening that potentially threatens our quotidian peace. Similarly, Jordy Meow, French photographer and author of Abandoned Japan (2015), describes those ruins in Japan as “dark and nightmarish” laden with dystopian atmosphere. One of the most well-known sites is “Gunkanjima” (Hashima in Nagasaki), an inhabited island known for its previous function as a coal mining station. The tiny island physically commemorates the country’s rapid industrialization, economic development, and the subsequent demise of the coal mining industry. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015; nevertheless, despite the international recognition of its socio-economic significance, the visual image of the haikyo goes beyond a simple historicity of res gestae and renders an uncanny effect on the viewer’s psyche. From this point of departure, this paper disentangles the intricate power of visual narrative wielded by haikyo.

"Structuring the Void: Kanai Mieko’s ‘Inflated Man’ and Pictorial Allusion,” Hannah Osborne, University of Oxford

  • Textual illustrations occupy a liminal space in any text in which they feature; do we regard such illustrations as part of the text that they accompany, or as separate from it? This paper argues that Kanai Mieko’s ‘Kūki otoko no hanashi’ (‘The Story of the Inflated Man’, 1974), interrogates the relationship between textual illustration, the reader, and the text.  The Inflated Man is able to eat an obscene amount everyday because, ‘[a]lthough food is something that becomes flesh and blood in normal bodies, in [his] case it becomes a kind of air, a hollow that has no substance, but that continues to expand’.  The Inflated Man’s body however, is one of many images in Kanai’s story in which a ‘void’ is described in relation to its external ‘structure’. Through its repeated association of ‘voids’ with ‘structures’, the story thus evokes the Japanese term ‘fiction’ (kyokō, lit. ‘empty structure’) to signal its own status as a piece of fiction.  Although the characters for fiction in Japanese gesture towards an understanding of ‘fiction’ as the structuring of void (or that which is imaginary), Kanai’s story also directs us to an understanding that such void equates to an infinite multiplicity of texts.  Moreover, through referencing literary allusions that are pictorial allusions (Disney’s Pinocchio’s pastiche of Jonah’s whale, Gustave Doré’s engraving to Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty, the manga version of the Japanese folk story ‘Momotarō’), the narrative enjoins us to do the same, thus inviting us to read it as though it were illustrated.  In this way, Kanai’s writing not only challenges conventional notions of the relationship between the text, pictographs, illustrations and the reader, but seeks to transform the reader’s experiential relationship with the text and its images from being that of a passive recipient to one of an active, engaged creator of meaning.