By Nina Cornyetz
Harmful ladies, lethal phrases is a materialist-feminist, psychoanalytic research of a contemporary eastern literary trope—the risky woman—in the works of 3 twentieth-century writers: Izumi Kyoka (1873-1939), Enchi Fumiko (1905-86), and Nakagami Kenji (1946-92). associated with archaisms and magical nation-states, the trope of the damaging, spiritually empowered lady culls from and commingles archetypes from through the eastern canon, together with mountain witches, girl shamans, and snake-women. In radical competition to the normal interpretation of the trope as a repository for transhistorical notions of “female essence” and “Japaneseness,” the writer reads the damaging lady as attached in advanced methods with twentieth-century eastern epistemological upheavals: the negotiation of contemporary phallic subjectivity, modernization of a homosocial economic system, the notably replaced prestige of ladies, reified maternity, obligatory heterosexuality, and the functionality of literature.The harmful girl enabled the literary delivery of a latest, phallic, nationwide topic as its constitutive different, the locus of “originary” wish, therefore the area of the Lacanian actual and, for this reason, the abject. decided by means of the cultural abhorrence that offers form in language to the earliest psychic methods of isolating self from not-self, the damaging girl can also be the locus for jouissance, a kind of erotic excitement that threatens the steadiness of the experiential subject.The book’s shut literary readings are deeply anchored within the gendered cultural and literary features of 3 classes in Japan’s modernity. the writer lines the trope of the harmful girl via its institution as a male imaginary through gothic storyteller Kyoka, its next cooption for girl erotic organisation by way of Enchi, and its final destabilization by way of Nakagami via a phallic retroping of archaisms in part depending on an equation of the social discourses on outcaste toxins with these of gay and feminine abjection.
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Extra resources for Dangerous women, deadly words: phallic fantasy and modernity in three Japanese writers
As part of the national modernization project, the grossly androcentric and misogynist Tokugawa legal and ideological debasement of women underwent massive reforms. 14 There was a government-sponsored campaign to educate women under the slogan "good wife, wise mother" (ryosai* kenbo). Maternity as a reified institution was produced in Japan as part of the li-bidinal and subjective economies that came to support Japan as a modern nation state. 15 In the process, for Kyoka* and for others, femaleness became the handy disposal bin for all that exceeded, muddied, and stained the unity of the (now-heterosexual) male subject.
My overall goal in this first part of Dangerous Women is thus to counter the dominant critical insistence that Kyoka* was a staunch "conventionalist,'' (both the-matically and stylistically), by resituating Kyoka* within the greater epistemological fabrics of Meiji/Taisho/early Showa-gendered reformulations that produced modern subjectivity and statehood (the process whereby in Japan the norm became the unitary masculine subject within a heterosexual libidinal economy) Page 24 Meiji-period transformations in subjectivity were, of course, multiple.
Commentators on Kyoka's* texts have generally agreed that his women, evocative of a vague past era, are frequently maternalized. This maternalization is commonly attributed to the fact that Kyoka* lost his own mother when he was a child. '"16 My reading adds the dimension of cultural loss to personal loss (as many other commentaries also have done); because the mother represents "the past," she embodies a nostalgic configuration of an imagined bygone age. As I noted in the introduction, within one Meiji-period imaginary, the maternal dimension is split between its ideal as female vocation (modernity) and its naturalized realm of abjection (premodernity), structurally paralleling the psychosexual demarcations between the (gendered) subject and the presubject.