You are on page 1of 3

Lit 365: Morrison Study Guide for Tanizaki Junichirs Some Prefer Nettles (1929): Day One I.

Outline of Novel *Ch 1-3: Trip to bunraku theater in Osaka *Ch 4-8: Kanames cousin Takanatsus visit to Shiba home in Hanshin (Kobe suburb) *Ch 9-12: Kanames journey with old man and O-hisa to the island of Awaji to see puppet theater, and stop at Kobe on way back. *Ch 13-14: Kanames trip to old mans place in Kyoto II. Regarding Seidenstickers Intro 1. the issue is clearly drawn (p. ix). Is it? 2. The real theme of Some Prefer Nettles is the clash between the new and the old, the imported and the domestic (p. x). This has been a common interpretation of the novel, but its not the only interpretation, and there are reasons to disagree with it. Dont accept Seidenstickers interpretation uncritically (or anyone elses). 3. Dreamy/floating vagueness of Japanese language (p. xiv). Is the Japanese really like that? 4. O-hisa as dim and fragile (p. xvi). Really? As you read, note the evolving discrepancy between the real O-hisa and the O-hisa that the old man sees. 5. Note autobiographical elements in the text (which was completed one year before his divorce from Chiyo). III. Some Terms/Particularities of Culture 1. Bunraku , also known as ningy jruri : Puppet theater created at the Bunraku-za Theater in Osaka in 1872 by a troupe handling ayatsuri-shibai puppets (ayatsuri-ningy) while reciting joururi (ningy-jruri) to the musical accompaniment of the shamisen. The puppets are approximately one-half to two-thirds life size; they are manipulated by one to three operators wearing black robes and hoods; only the principal operator does not wear a hood. The heads (kashira) of some puppets have movable jaws and eyelids. The main puppet characters were Musume (young woman), Fukeoyama (married woman), Chari (clown), Bunshichi (warrior), and Danshichi (braggart), but their heads could be used for a number of roles. The ayatsuri-shibai

originated probably in the early seventeenth century, in Kyoto, and spread to Osaka and Edo, where traveling troupes performed the adventures of a certain Kimpira and his acolytes. The ayatsuri-shibai suffered in competition with the Kabuki theater. At the end of the eighteenth century, a jruri singer, Uemura Kunrakuken, from Awaji, settled in Osaka and presented a new show using ayatsuri-ningy, without great success. His son, however, followed in his footsteps, performing puppet shows in various places. His descendants created the Bunraku-za Theater in Osaka, giving the current form its name. The building was damaged by fire a number of times, and was last reconstructed in 1956. It is currently the only theater reserved exclusively for this type of performance, which draws most of its plays from the repertoire of Chikamatsu Monzaemon. (Japan Encyclopedia, Louis Frdric and Kthe Roth, 92) 2. Focalization: Position or quality of consciousness through which we see events in the narrative. (More exact than point of view.) Usually the narrator is the focalizer, but the focalizer can shift, sometimes within same sentence. Focalization is related to voice, i.e. the sensibility through which we hear the narrative. 3. (p. 21) The design in the bottom of the cup is one of Hiroshiges prints of Numazu: 4. (p. 37) Ancient Japanese court literature refers primarily to The Tale of Genji; the drama of the feudal ages refers to the n theater. 5. (p. 40) The new American cab is a Model A Ford. 6. (p. 63) Doll Festival: IV. Study Questions Answer in bullet-point form each of the following. Bring your answers to class, and add to them as you discuss the questions with your group. 1. Describe the point of view of the narrative. Describe the shifts in focalization that occur throughout the work.

2. In Japanese, the word kaname means turning point or that which is pivoted between two objects. Explain the significance of the protagonists name, and how this name relates to his personality, his behavior, and the overarching theme(s) of the work. 3. Discuss Misakos father as a character type. Describe his personality, tastes, aesthetic inclinations, attitude toward life, relation with his daughter, etc. 4. Discuss the character types of each of the female characters (Misako, O-hisa, Takanatsus ex-wife, Louise, etc.). How does each measure up against Kanames ideal woman? 5. Describe the character of Takanatsu. Explain his role in the novel. 6. What is the state of Kaname and Misakos marriage? What is the source of their troubles? What are their options? 7. On pages 58-59, in a scene that recalls the famous rainy night conversation about women in the Hahakigi chapter of The Tale of Genji, Kaname and Takanatsu discuss their ideas about the ideal woman. Discuss Kanames ideal woman and how this ideal relates to his personal life.