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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The intertextual novel and the interrelational self : Kurahashi Yumiko, a Japanese postmodernist Sakaki, Atsuko


This thesis explores narrational, textual and thematic aspects of novels by Kurahashi Yumiko (1 935- ), applying poststructuralist critical approaches developed by Judith Butler, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, and Michel Foucault, focusing upon the notion of the performativity in selfhood and textuality. My discussion begins with an overview of the context within which Kurahashi emerges as a writer, her debate with pro-Romantic or -realist Japanese critics regarding her main compositional methodology— pastiche—and the challenges to sexual norms made in her fictional practice. Kurahashi’s views on selfhood, narratives, text, and authorship, I show, parallel in many ways the concerns of poststructural 1st critics. The main body of my thesis consists of six chapters, each of which deals with either an individual novel, or two related novellas. Blue lourney (1961) is a second-person narrative written in a collage form, which demonstrates performative femininity. Divine Maiden (1 965) presents the themes of incest and amnesia, inevitably questioning issues of self and other. The novel’s characters do not possess constative identity but rather demonstrate performative selfhood, and are thus not described as individuals but rather associated with others, constituting “indices.” The self-reflexive, embedding, and dialogic narrative foregrounds the acts of writing and reading in which characters engages, and thus demonstrates the notion of narrative as a verbal act, while delineating paradoxical inversions of subjectivity between narrator and narratee, and narrator and narrated. The Adventures of Sumivakist Q (1 969), a third-person narrative with an intrusive and yet elusive extradiegetic narrator, develops “indices” as the method of structuring the text, incessantly making and unmaking parallels and contrasts between subjects. The theme of selfhood is again questioned in the systems of cognitive, sexual, and digestive familiarization with others in the novel. The fourth chapter of my thesis deals with two novellas, “Virginia” and “The Long Passage of Dreams” (1968) which frame subversions of the novel and the self with characters who subscribe to the established norms of language and society. Subversive sexual acts and paradoxes still exist, but only within the rigid framework of a logic which objectivizes them. Kurahashi’s “Japanization” of themes and methods begins with the latter novella, which refers to noh plays and uses their double-layered structure of dream and reality. This process becomes more apparent in Symnosium (1 985), which pastiches Divine Maiden through its theme of incest, its inversion of subject and object, and its embedded narrative, but also refers to the traditional Japanese models and employs the narrative strategies of monogatari. In so doing, the novel suggests the parallel between traditional Japanese poetics and poststructuralist criticism, particularly in terms of its stress upon the contingency of ‘truth’ and ‘selfhood’. Popoi (1 987), the novel which is the topic of Chapter Six, refines the technique of pastiche, exploring a plurality of fragmentations of self and text. Having examined the individual texts, I conclude that a parallel can be drawn between Kurahashi’s work and that of Western postmodern artists, while remaining aware of the precarious nature of such labelling due to the different cultural context.

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