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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Europeanized mind and Japanese body : Mishima Yukio’s humanized emperor in Silk and Insight Sekiguchi, Haruki


Mishima Yukio (1925-1970) is one of the most influential writers in postwar Japan. His novel Kinu to meisatsu (Silk and Insight, 1964) illustrates the death of an allegorical humanized emperor himself, rather than a young ideologue, and the allegorical emperor who is destroyed in the end is depicted as having ordinary and ugly physical traits instead of representing beauty. In this thesis, I examine how Mishima tackles the theme of the antinomy of mind and body through portraying the death of the allegorical humanized emperor in Silk and Insight. The thesis also explores how Mishima juxtaposes ugliness and beauty in the desire for destruction by comparing Silk and Insight with Gogo no eikō, (The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, 1963), in which he depicts the common theme of patricide. I examine how the difference of ugliness and beauty in the way the father-figure is portrayed in the two novels represents Mishima’s view of the diminishment of the humanized emperor and the mindset of self-punishment in postwar Japan. My thesis also offers an exploration of how Silk and Insight portrays the harmonization of the mind and body split through the relationship between the allegorized humanized emperor and the young intellectual ideologue who causes his death, which shows connections between Heideggerian ontology conjoined with European fascism and Mishima’s philosophy on pure action which is tied up with the essence of Japanese nationalism. Through exploring the link between Heideggerian philosophy and Mishima’s vision of Japanese nationalism, I examine how the overcoming of the mind and body split is pursued not only ideologically, but also in the homoerotic dynamics between the allegorical humanized emperor and the young ideologue. This exploration shows a new perspective on scholarly discussions of Mishima’s vision of the postwar emperor, as well as the recurring theme of mind and body in his works.

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