East Asian Languages and Cultures | The Bodily Ego in Modern Japanese Literature
E505 | 3908 | Alvis


This course uses psychoanalytic ideas of the bodily ego to examine
the graphic representations of the body that dominate much of modern
Japanese literature. In psychoanalysis, the term “bodily ego” refers
to an unconscious level of thinking that collapses the psychic and
the physical. Emotional movements towards other people (such as
anger) are experienced as physical movements towards them (such as
biting or scratching). Furthermore, mental states are experienced as
physical objects located concretely inside the body—along the lines
of “butterflies in the stomach.” We will use such ideas to interpret
many intriguing, and often puzzling, representations of the body in
modern Japanese texts. What is the significance, for example, of
Shiga Naoya’s gruesome depiction of an infant girl’s death in Wakai
(Reconciliation, 1917)? Why does Yasuoka Shôtarô’s “Thick the New
Leaves” (Aoba shigereru, 1958) contain bizarre imagery of the
protagonist trapped in his mother’s womb—attached to an umbilical
cord? And why does Ogawa Yoko, in her 1992 story “Daibingu Pûru”
(Diving Pool, 1989), create a protagonist who calmly fantasizes
watching her adopted baby sister sprout clumps of mold?

The first 9 weeks of the class will be spent exploring various
dimensions of the concept of the bodily ego and adapting these
concepts to the interpretation of Japanese literary texts. During
the last 6 weeks, students will have regular, one-on-one meetings
with the instructor as they prepare a seminar-length paper on a
text/topic of their choice. For graduate students, emphasis will be
on integrating psychoanalytic ideas of the bodily ego with other
theoretical frameworks they may already utilize in their work, such
as feminism or post-colonialism.

Permission of the instructor is required.