Perversion and Modern Japan: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture by Nina Cornyetz

Cornyetz, Nina and J. Keith Vincent (eds), Perversion and Modern Japan: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 2010.

Nina Cornyetz analyzes the “dangerous women” in Izumi Kyoka, Enchi Fumiko and Nakagami Kenji’s work because this woman “hovers at the borders of colliding and remforming ideologies of Japanese modernism.” (13)  She performs a “psychoanalytic based materialist-feminist analysis” on these texts (informed by Cixous’ and Clement’s critical readings of femaleness and feminine texts) because it is part of her ethic of reshaping Levi-Strauss’ bricolage (making use of the means at hand).  She seeks “to describe the social coming-into-being of the modern Japanese (male) subject through a process of othering and abjecting (of the dangerous woman).” (6)  Drawing on Judith Butler, Cornyetz positions writing (and literary representation) here as a compensation and replacement for physical desire, creating a tight “reciprocal” relationship between psychoanalysis and literature “to describe the interdependent systems of psychic and social subjectivity.” (7)

Cornyetz reads these female characters as abjected but empowered bodies that can “unsettle from within its interiors, the conceit of maternalized femaleness.” (101)

Abject in this sense is meant to suggest a whole set of binaries established where the male/phallogocentric knowledge accomplishes the construction of the male subject by subordinating the maternal body, creating a gendered separation of mind and body where the body is cast off.  This discussion of abjection is from Elizabeth Grosz’s Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994).  Her focus is on “reading the relationship between specific literary imaginaries and discourses of social abjection, pollution, and othering that made possible the coming-into-being of the Japanese twentieth-century masculine subject in language.” (228)  She maintains that all three writers eroticize women through words/language, though all three also seem to imply there is something “inexpressible in word, or something surplus to language that….in twentieth-century Japan has been naturalized as bound to the woman’s maternalized body.” (230)


About kathrynpagel

Working on my PhD in Japanese literature, visual studies, and new media.
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