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Panel 14 | 2:00-4:00 | ROOM A

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Panel 14 | 2:00-4:00 | ROOM A

14 - Fragmentary Womanhood, Hybridized Manhood: New Images of Gender in Changing Times of Japan

"The Silenced Voice of the Modern Girl in Mizoguchi Kenji’s The Water Magician: Examining the Role of Irie Takako in Early Japanese Cinema,” Wakako Suzuki, UCLA

  • This paper examines how the aura of sentimentality and commodification of melodrama altered the image of modern girls in Japanese cultural production by examining The Water Magician (1933), a black and white Japanese film, directed by Mizoguchi Kenji. The film is based on Izumi Kyōka’s Giketsu Kyōketsu, which employs the traditional cultural motif of love suicide between lovers from the lower class, known as sinjū-mono. However, Mizuguchi’s film version moves beyond the transitional motif because it explores deep inner voices of the female character, Taki no Shiraito, on the social periphery by combining powerful acting, a dramatic storyline, and silent film production value to produce a melodramatic effect. In particular, Irie Takako, a prominent Japanese film actress, projects herself into Taki no Shiraito by coalescing the image of a powerful modern girl and that of a sacrificial woman with acts of honor and benevolence. Around that time, Clara Bow, an American actress, became a cultural icon of the modern girl in Japan. Like Bow, Irie also represented a new type of woman emancipated from fixed social roles and norms in stardom. Irie established her own production company, which produced The Water Magician. However, the film somewhat counters the discourse of the modern girl, confining women’s role to that of sacrificial figures under the power of money and market. This paper thus illuminates the function of early melodramatic film that both liberates and limits women’s roles in a star system with the alluring commodification of sentimentalism.

“Wife, Writer, and the Café Waitress: The Image of the “Populace” in Sata Ineko’s Crimson,” Juhee Lee, Tsukuba University

  • Under the severe thought control of the 1930s, many proletarian writers in Japan had to dissolve their associations in the proletarian art movement and lost their traditional channels for expressing their political opinions. Some of these writers now had to find places to publish their works in the commercial media. Given this situation, how did these writers who had anti-capitalist ideas deal with the contradiction that they were writing for a mass market that commodifies their works?

    I will explore this question by analyzing the case of Crimson (Kurenai), written by Sata Ineko (1904–98), a proletarian writer who serialized this story in 1936 in the magazine Fujinkoron (Women's Review).

    I would demonstrate that the story dramatized Sata’s conflict over writing for commercial media such as Fujinkoron. In this period, this magazine went through a sweeping reform to broaden its readership. Additionally, it expanded the proportion of its advertisements and ran a department for delivering mail-order products. The magazine, at the same time as it modified itself to be a magazine for “populace,” re-created its readers into consumers of mass products.

    The novel shows the proletarian writer heroine confronting with her own elitist snobbishness. She agrees to her husband's request for a divorce after he confesses his affair with a café waitress. She expects that the waitress will devote herself to her husband as an ordinary housewife---a gender role that she had refused to accept for herself. By examining the actual pages of the magazine in which the novel was published, including the visual advertisements that accompanied it, I would argue that Sata metaphorically depicts through this story her self-consciousness of being engaged in the commercial strategy of the media to promote mass consumerism.

"Pretty Young Thing: Idolization of Minamoto no Yoshitsune in Gikeiki,” Sachi Schmidt-Hori, Dartmouth College

  • Judith Butler (1990) famously theorized the “matrix of coherent gender norms” composed of biological sex, socially constructed gender, and heterosexuality.  If not conforming to this socially instituted trinity, individuals are deemed “developmental failures or logical impossibilities.”  Nevertheless, Butler’s matrix manifested itself in radically different ways among the ruling class of premodern Japan, where it intersected with the formation of Japanese national identity from the 10th century onward.  According to art historian Chino Kaori, upon the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907, Japanese masculinities split into two modes.  One she labels is “Kara,” the abstract imagery of Chinese-ness, as represented by the solemn and masculine Chinese-style arts and the formal kanbun writings.  The other is the feminine “Yamato” mode, which emerged through legitimation of non-Chinese-ness; it is associated with Japanese-style arts and kana literature.  Perhaps the most illustrative example of fluid gender construction in the premodern literary tradition of Japan is what I call the “idolization”—a combination of feminization and infantalization of an adult male, which is often accompanied with deification—of Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159—1189) in the 14th-century Gikeiki (A Chronicle of Yoshitsune).  Whereas the Heike monogatari (Tales of the Heike; 13th century) depicts Yoshitsune as a fearless military hero notwithstanding his short stature and unsightly buckteeth, he is reborn in the Gikeiki as a femininely gorgeous youth with elegance and poise.  Through the idolization of a physically unattractive military hero, the author of Gikeiki successfully invented a cultural icon to be cherished for centuries to come.  Furthermore, the immense popularity of Yoshitsune began to be equated with the “uniquely Japanese” cultural sensibility known as hōgan biiki, or compassion for Yoshitsune-like underdogs.  Thus, for the people of Japan, loving the feminized (hence Japanized) Yoshitsune was further reinforced as the act of loving their country and culture.

Discussant/Moderator: Nobuko Yamasaki, Lehigh University