LIT 365: Morrison Study Guide: Ishikawa Jun’s Kajin (The Nymphs, 1935; translated by me) I.
Some Key Terms/Concepts 1. Pan 牧羊神: the Greek god of instincts and sexual desire. In Greek mythology, Pan is the god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, as well as the companion of nymphs. 2. “Nympholepsy”: a “state of rapture supposed to be inspired by nymphs, hence, an ecstasy or frenzy of emotion especially inspired by something unattainable” (OED) 3. Kūkyo (Japanese: 空虚; Sanskrit: Śūnyatā). Emptiness/void. Relates to the idea in Buddhism that the self/ego is an empty void. This idea is also central to many modern/contemporary philosophers’ conception of the “individual” or “subject” (主体・個人). 4. Laotzu: see footnote. 5. Assissi’s stigmata: see footnote. 6. [Make a list of other words/terms you are unfamiliar with; give a brief definition] 7. 8. … II. Some Questions to Ponder as You Read (take notes, for class discussion; answer BEFORE you read my optional-reading essay) 1. Discuss the narrative style of the work. Is this an example of a "self-conscious narrator"? Give examples. 2. Watashi begins his narrative by describing his search for the “navel” (heso). Describe this episode. Is the navel/omphalos a metaphor for something? If so, what? 3. Describe Yura and Misa. What is their relationship vis-à-vis Watashi? Are they archetypes/symbolic representations of something? If so, what do they represent? 4. Discuss Watashi’s “disappearing act.” What is he trying to do? Why? Why does he eventually attempt suicide? 5. What are the dual aspects of Watashi’s personality/nature? Describe them.
6. How is this work an example of a "quest story"? What is the narrator searching for? 7. How does the motif of Pan (牧羊神) fit into the story? 8. Discuss the significance of (1) the “white hibiscus” (fuyō 芙蓉) and (2) the poem Watashi composes. 9. The story ends with Watashi’s confession that he suffers from “a condition known as nympholepsy.” What’s that? What are its symptoms? 10. How is Watashi a “possessed” narrator/character? What is he possessed by? How does this possession relate to his act of writing this story? 11. What are the main “themes” of the work? 12. Identify any inaccuracies/flaws/awkward phrasing in my translation. III. Homework Assignment (Word Document preferred; 3/4 page – 1 page) 1. Make an original and interesting point about the work. Write this BEFORE reading my optional-reading essay.