In this paper, I will discuss a popular text, Jim Jarmusch’s film Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai (1999), and relate its topic to the so-called Mishima Affair of 1970. The former is a product of postmodern eclecticism, copying out various cultures of various times, and the latter, on the other hand, has been written off by critics as an occurrence confined to its socio-historical context. This paper is a critique of modernity and an attempt to create a critical narrative that shifts (slips) away from the discourses of the modern.
1. The obscene object of postmodernity
In the late ’60s during the worldwide students’ New Left Movement, novelist and playwright Yukio Mishima began a series of disturbing public appearances as an ultra-nationalist. On November 25th in 1970 he staged a civilian’s coup d’état at the Eastern Army HQ of Japan’s Self Defense Force, leading a small number of dedicated young officers from his privately trained ‘Shield Society’. They wore a brash uniform that looked like stage costume, and the media, including the foreign press, was informed well in advance of the incident. Despite this theatricality, Mishima ends this drama with a real seppuku suicide (1).
Although Mishima’s project of masculinity is seemingly ‘dead’ serious, it does not hide its theatrical devices. The presence of a self-mutilated body – an ‘obscene’object (2) of desire – has an overwhelming effect on the audience. Having written a few memorable seppuku scenes in his novels (3), Mishima finally wrote a script for his own seppuku and acted out the ‘Way of the Samurai’ that he fetishised through the book of Hagakure (4). A ritual suicide, seppuku (or harakiri in lay terms) was an honour granted only to the samurai class, through which one demonstrated one’s loyalty, honour and ability to deliver justice. By executing one’s own death, a samurai subject of the Edo feudalism brought a closure to a disturbance that had threatened the system of an impeccable order. It was a ‘Way of the Samurai’ through which one would rise from anonymity to a powerful position.
By protecting the name of the lord, the samurai subject also saved his own name that would have otherwise disappeared into a void. If a name is so invaluable as to cost a person’s life, we may like to question here, ‘What’s in a name?’ in a Shakespearean fashion. A (proper) name is, without harking back to Saussure, always-already an empty sign. Every samurai subject in a society overwhelmed by the prosperous merchant economy, decisively hung on to his name. What was at stake then was his class identity. The power he was entitled to, during the time of prolonged political stability, was just an imaginary power. It could only be sustained by a repeated confirmation through a ritual performance; the emphasis was on a form, a style, and a name. Nothing therefore, is in a name except the absence of the content that will otherwise solidify one’s subjectivity. In this sense, can we not say that the act of seppuku proceeded in an appropriate context carries the same motive we find in Western Enlightenment Humanism? In other words, it is essentially modern and individualistic. The act is an ultimate exercise of ‘will to power’ (5).
In fact, the terms such as ‘determination’ and an ‘honorable death’ are universally recognised values of the warrior class in any culture. Despite its façade of collectivism – the submission of an individual to the benefit of the whole – the favourite Orientalist’s description of Japan and the Japanese, the ‘Way of the Samurai’ can be the way of ‘self-fashioning’ (6) a unique and coherent subject. And it does so without a verbal articulation crucial to, for example, a Shakespearean tragedy. That is because in the ‘Way of the Samurai’, language becomes almost redundant; speaking is irrelevant and secondary to action. Although that is so, written words have a totally different significance. In any culture, words, once written, become the law. All letters are the scripture endowed with mythical powers (7). The book of Hagakure is in this sense a paradox, or rather an irony, for it aims to implement the code of non-verbal action by verbally stating it. In it, the body is something to be overcome and marginalised, and, yet, it is put to the fore, by the same token.
Setting aside the Mishima Affair for now, I would like to briefly turn to a cinematic narrative in which a similar ‘self-fashioning’ takes place, that is to say, without characters’ verbal persuasion. A recent American film, Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999) features an African-American contract killer who has found a way of living – a personal code of conduct – in an 18th century Japanese text, Hagakure: the Book of the Samurai. Ghost Dog, a role played by ‘lovable and cuddly’ Forest Whitaker, is an anachronistic and unsuitable black knight. He creates an ‘unwritten contract’ with a small time Mafia boss who once saved his life almost accidentally. The latter is a reluctant participant in this pseudo-feudal relationship. After a series of complex events Ghost Dog willingly throws himself on the sword of this boss, who is also interlocked within an unwritten law of an Italian connection.
The film is a collection of postmodern ‘blank parodies’, to use frequently quoted Fredric Jameson’s definition of postmodernism (8). Parodies have by definition a sting to mock an original seriousness. Postmodern blank parodies are on the other hand somehow without a sting, because for them the meaning of the original has already collapsed and therefore there remains only the form of the original, or its particular style without a content. Blank parodies mimic the styles of the past: in the film Ghost Dog Godfathers discuss their business in a Chinese restaurant, they have no young successors, and they are three months behind in paying the rent. Some stare with nostalgia at American cartoon classics full of violence on a TV screen, while another taps along to contemporary rap music. And quite unexpectedly, a Japanese text, Hagakure dominates the narrative of the film, appearing in white at each crucial moment on a black background. It dictates the plot and circumscribes the meaning of the visual, finally leading Ghost Dog to an honorable samurai death.
For the Mafia, Ghost Dog is ‘invisible’, for his pigeons carry out daily communication, taking perhaps a killing order to him and bringing the mission-accomplished note back to the Mafia. He who follows the master’s order ‘doggedly’ and ‘invisibly’ is a ‘ghost dog’. At the end he even dies like a dog being shot by his own master, still forgiving and loving the master, like a dog. Nevertheless, this ghost is thoroughly visible to the audience from the beginning. Jarmusch does not veil this central object; the ghost is not behind a door. Its habitat is not in a dark basement, but on a rooftop where he innocently takes a nap under the sky in a long spell of idleness between his ‘assignments’.
To compensate for such hyper-visibility, the film offers to us a familiar excitement of ‘uncovering’ the secret: the true identity of Ghost Dog. There is a sort of the primary scene – the original text – given to the audience in a flashback: Ghost Dog, who was a homeless youth sleeping in the street, was saved of his life by the Mafia boss who happened to be there. But that seems no more important than the second text: a ‘sacred book’ of Hagakure and the Japanese ‘ancient’ culture to which it belongs. The secret, the true identity of Ghost Dog, the film implies, will be found in this second text. The term ‘ancient’ is repeatedly mentioned in the film, although Hagakure, an early 18th century text is, historically speaking, neither an ancient nor a medieval text. The term ‘ancient’ is used as a code that signifies the unspecified past that is not one but many, just as the term ‘Japanese’ in the film is an uncanny code that simultaneously evokes both familiarity and unfamiliarity (9).
Postmodern films like this are designed neither to send out any transparent messages to the audience, nor to privilege a particular meaning among others. They instead offer a style that is selected out of many, the method of which we call eclecticism. The ‘Way of the Samurai’ in Ghost Dog, is thus presented as an arbitrary style chosen from the past; it is an intensely one-dimensional way of living. A life with principles, or a unified (and therefore not fragmented) way of living is something our present society has long dismissed as ‘backwards’ and ‘pre-modern’. New York, the setting of Ghost Dog has turned into a postmodern space of cultural bricolage. The values that Hagakure advocated in early 18th century feudal Japan is in this American movie at the end of the 20th century, just an arbitrary style of a jouissance (10) chosen for an alienated man who has no place in the fast-moving, excessively affluent capitalist society.
A jouissance is the other experience that is outside of language, and hence outside of official knowledge. In Lacanian psychoanalysis and French feminist literary criticism the term jouissance connotes an intensive bodily pleasure, an ecstasy. In a postmodern text (text in the wider sense of the term) a jouissance is fully visible, evoking a certain anxiety in the viewers. Slavoj Zizek, a post-Lacanian theorist, points out that a postmodern break occurs when a jouissance is present even when one is utterly alienated; this opposes the modernist depiction of an alienated and de-humanised individual. It is crucial to note here that Zizek distances the terms – modern and postmodern – from their designated temporality. And he does so in order to capture more precisely the complexity of our time.
[W]e are even tempted to say that postmodernism in a way precedes modernism. Like Kafka – who logically, not only temporally, precedes Joyce – the postmodernist inconsistency of the Other is retroactively perceived by the modernist gaze as its incompleteness. (11)
Through the works of James Joyce, who is regarded as a high modernist, one can acknowledge the postmodernity of Kafka’s works. In this context, Zizek’s notion of ‘postmodernity’ is analogous to ‘anti-modernity’. Zizek explains in different terms: while a modernist text is driven by an absence (e.g., Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot) and therefore it provokes interpretation, in a postmodern text (e.g., Franz Kafka’s The Trial) the central object is already present, and therefore the text blocks interpretation (12).
In the former narrative, human beings are alienated and isolated because the true is not attainable. In the latter, on the other hand, although human beings are equally or more alienated by the modern systems, there is no attempt made to represent the truth of beings, but only the series of happenings, in short, there is only a description of ‘Being’ (13). In Ghost Dog, the Thing (the primary scene, the sacred text Hagakure, Ghost Dog’s corporeality or his jouissance) is present from the beginning. There is no interpretation required there. Likewise, in the Mishima Affair, the Thing (a discourse of ultra-nationalism, the sacred text Hagakure, Mishima’s corporeality or his jouissance) is always-already present to the audience. There is no unconscious hidden deep down the surface of the affair for us, the audience, to discover; numerous attempts as such have been made by Japanese critics only to find that everything one needed to know was always-already provided by Mishima himself. Both Ghost Dog and Mishima resist interpretation in the sense that the central object (the text of the body and the body of the text) is already present, and the modernist critiques that find inconsistency and incompleteness in them are missing the point. I am instead, in this paper, narrating their inconsistency and inauthenticity to be a steady circulation of modernity’s Other.
2. The fetishised object of a jouissance
Ghost Dog is yet another model of a dumb figure that the American cinema has increasingly fetishised. These unthreatening and less articulate heroes have an exceptionally kind, uncorrupted heart. Furthermore, they often have a hidden talent, which will bring them to the fore from their initial marginality; Forest Gump immediately comes to our mind. The stories address a clear mapping of the centre and the periphery so that when these lone creatures finally receive recognition and appreciation by the centre, they will be accepted to exist on the margin. In the case of Ghost Dog, however, there is no map to demarcate here and there; the postmodern space of the city can no longer be clearly divided. The film implies that Ghost Dog has an already established network of recognition among ‘his people’ who are floating in the space, unanchored, instead of occupying it. Freemason-like greetings are exchanged between different parties, in the streets, at a doorstep and in an urban park. Their exchange is brief and non-verbal, for both are always in the process of going somewhere.
What Ghost Dog and others who he greets have in common is the fact that their existence is excessive to the main economic operation of the city. Although their network is visible under a broad daylight (unlike the tradition of the Mafia), it is invisible to those who do not see it. Other characters of Ghost Dog – the Mafia, a French-speaking Caribbean migrant ice-cream vendor, and a man who builds a ship on the rooftop of a building – all hang on to a style of their choice, their own Hagakure which brings their daily experience of a jouissance, a bodily pleasure beyond symbolic representations. Their choices are against the trend; they are anachronistic, inefficient, and therefore, amusing and pleasurable, in short, they are antithesis to the modernist economy of rationality. Having said that, I must add in haste that their ‘own’ jouissance does not construct the notion of an autonomous subject. Because the experience of a jouissance will make it possible for a self to meet with the Other, while the autonomy of a modern subject will fortify the boundaries of a self and consequently throw it into an alienation. A jouissance breaks the unity of a subject in so far as it gives pleasure even in alienation.
In the year of 1970, at the onset of Japan’s rising economy and the prospects of mesmerising material wealth, the Mishima Affair – a civilian’s coup d’état and his provocative death by seppuku – was no less ‘anachronistic’ and ‘unsuitable’ than Ghost Dog of New York in 1999. Then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, who was later awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the ‘non-violent’ return of Okinawa, dismissed the Mishima Affair immediately after its occurrence by simply saying that Mishima had gone ‘mad’. By calling Mishima ‘mad’, Sato could avoid the responsibility of dealing with the larger issue this event indicated: Japan’s political and economic affiliation to the US (the former enemy); the existing emotional resistance to that affiliation among its people; Sato’s own involvement in that resistance by befriending and supporting Mishima to a certain degree.
Let us again return to Ghost Dog. Our ‘anti-hero’ Ghost Dog chose to enter a ‘lord – samurai’ relationship with an arbitrary master, a small time gangster. The fact that he is also a ‘mad’ contract killer who has killed regularly without a second thought is intentionally understated by the film’s narrative by depicting his nightly actions with a comic touch. For example, there is a mighty electronic gadget he uses to open any lock. And the reassuring monotone rhythm of rap music undermines the anticipated tension in crime scenes. In effect we, the audience, are led to warm to his unquestioned submission to the law – the code of the Samurai -that finally swallows up his life itself. We come to love Ghost Dog because he demonstrates lost values: the strength of will power, immaculate self-discipline and kindness towards the weak. These qualities effectively evoke nostalgia.
Nostalgia is what we feel when we recognise a lack in our present condition, and we falsely project that lack onto the past in order to construct an image of the past that is full and whole. In fact, the book of Hagakure was written at the time when the Japanese feudal system had been solidified for over a hundred years and consequently, the samurai class was losing its original warrior role. Mishima talks warmly of the fact that the author of Hagakure, Tsunetomo Yamamoto, lived a long peaceful life and died on a comfortable futon in a comfortable tatami room without an opportunity to perform his principle of an honourable death. If that is so, Hagakure is a text inspired by the lost values of the samurai, a narrative produced from one man’s nostalgia, or a literary reconstruction of a samurai subject. The meaning of the author’s life is at stake there.
Well, then, what is the essence of Hagakure that can turn a chubby African-American homeless youth into a well-controlled and ‘powerfully attractive’ warrior? The author, Yamamoto was greatly influenced by Wang Yang-Ming’s philosophy, also called the ‘philosophy of action’. That is why Hagakure was one of Mishima’s favourite books. Mishima’s ontological position is somewhere between Wang Yang-Ming’s words, ‘Truth is within me’ and Nietzschean nihilism, ‘Will to power’, or rather, a combination of the two. ‘The Way of the Samurai’ is a circulating narrative that dangerously empowers certain souls: Mishima who has lost a faith in the power of language, and Ghost Dog who believes too much in it.
3. The Purloined paperback
Mishima was a ‘high modernist’ who wanted to believe in the modern discourse of purity and unity, but he was also acutely aware of the ‘ominous’ sign of the collapse of such modern values. Mishima is, like any other genius, a socio-historical product; his belief in a Japanese core culture – unique and authentic – is of a typical modern concept. He worked as a professional novelist, playwright and literary critic roughly between 1945 and 1970, the time of rapid Americanisation of postwar Japan. A novel is a literary genre through which Japanese modern writers sought to create a Japanese subject which had the interior as deep as that of a Western subject. Mishima’s novels in particular could evoke a Westernised space that is foreign and therefore seductive, within the familiar landscape of Japan. Despite all this, when Mishima is read outside Japan, namely in the West, he is often automatically ‘Orientalised’ (14) and the apparent modernity of his texts is ignored. It seems to be easily forgotten in the West that what initially gives Western readers access to Mishima’s texts is the texts’ conformity to the laws of ‘modern novels’ and that exoticism alone cannot induce a reader’s personal engagement. Mishima, like other ethnic writers, often self-fashions a certain ethnicity in order to authenticate and particularise his texts for foreign readers. The modernity of his texts, therefore, must not be overlooked for this reason. Mishima’s main characters are well equipped with a modern subjectivity that empowers them over others who lack it.
In the same way, the Mishima Affair has become an affair to remember in the West as things exclusively ‘Oriental’ (and therefore ‘pre-modern’), or in certain quarters as exclusively queer/homosexual aesthetics. It seems to me though that the significance of the affair lies in that it marks a resistance of modernity’s Other, a certain lack we feel in the totalitarian operation of modernity. Mishima successfully invoked a ‘pre-modern-scape’ (15) by executing a seppuku suicide. A ‘pre-modern-scape’ of the fissured human body could threaten the clean and proper order of modernity that Japan had to strive for all over again in the postwar devastation. The sight of a severed head and a bleeding lower body was a site of abjection (16), which had been forced away in people’s memory as ‘reject’, or things past. Mishima embodies, therefore, a point of encounter not only between the West and Japan, but also between (1) himself as a modern subject that strives to demarcate and solidify its territories, and (2) the other (anti-modern) self that deconstructs the modern demarcation of the inside and outside. In him (1) and (2) are neither topographically nor historically mapped. Both are always on the move, passing through each other, unanchored and unsettled.
In the film, Ghost Dog, there is a little girl of about 10 years old, Pearline, who notices Ghost Dog in a park and tries to communicate with him. Later we are informed that she is in fact an arbitrarily chosen agent who will maintain the values of Hagakure after the death of Ghost Dog. In the same way a daughter of the Godfather who looks anaemic and powerless, accidentally becomes an agent to maintain the Mafia tradition. Coincidentally, the two girls are linked by another text, also Japanese, Rashomon. The title of the book is famous in the West for a film with the same title directed by late Akira Kurosawa. The book in fact is a collection of short stories written by a modern novelist, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, who collected stories from classical Japanese texts. Akutagawa skillfully psychologised these pre-modern stories to create a modern narrative of Western realism. In other words, the book Rashomon is also a product of eclecticism. Kurosawa’s film uses one of the stories called ‘Yabunonaka’ as its basic narrative, while using another story ‘Rashomon’ as its title. The Japanese phrase ‘Yabunonaka’ is pronounced and exchanged between Ghost Dog and a young girl without referring to the content of the story.
For the viewers of Jarmusch’s film, it is merely the pornographic picture on a paperback cover that implies its content. This reminds us of another exchange that took place between a French-speaking migrant and Ghost Dog who each spoke only French and English respectively. Jarmusch in his usual playfulness deconstructs the notion of communication and the role of language. The viewers of the film can have an experience of seeing from a position of God who understands every masked meaning (simply by reading subtitles, of course), while characters remain in their mono-lingual shells. Language is, according to Lacan, a metonymical chain of signifiers (17); meaning is always-already veiled from the viewer. What is conveyed can never be confirmed. The unconscious (the condensed hidden meaning) does not lie beneath the surface of consciousness to be represented, but instead, it is there in our proximity, structured like language, displacing and floating.
The gist of the story ‘Yabunonaka’ is that an incident can be described totally differently by different parties and that what has ‘truly’ happened cannot be obtained objectively. It is a modern narrative in the sense that it implies a core meaning and a belief in the hidden truth. It also leads to the statement of Wang Yang-Ming’s philosophy, ‘Truth is within one’s mind’. The film thus appears to conform to the modernist representation by passing on a text of truth from one character to another. It is a game, however, that Jarmusch plays with a so-called cinematic narrative. The film pretends as if there were the hidden sacred true, and as if words/language/ texts carried it within. Two Japanese texts, Hagakure and Rashomon, that have no connection between them, in this film belong to the same imaginary paradigm called ‘ancient Japan’ and are assigned to be the couriers of the true.
A paperback text of Rashomon circulates from the Mafia daughter through Ghost Dog to Pearline, and finally returns to the original owner. The content of the text is treated as irrelevant, but the circulation bears some significance. Like the letter in well-discussed Poe’s text, ‘The Purloined Letter’ (18), the book of Rashomon circulates metonymically in the film without carrying any deep meaning. There is no ‘core’ meaning to it, and a modernist effort to read a metaphor in the narrative is bound to fail. The text of Hagakure is also transferred from Ghost Dog to Pearline who is at the final scene of the film reading it, sitting on the kitchen floor while her mother is preparing a meal. Are we to expect that she is going to be the second samurai? If she should become one, surely would she enjoy it? She would re-live a jouissance that Ghost Dog had demonstrated to her. While Poe’s ‘purloined letter’ was designed to arrive at its destination, the letters (paperbacks) in Ghost Dog, as Derrida points out in his criticism of Lacan’s reading of Poe, always have a possibility of not arriving at all.
The samurai code of living that Hagakure advocates is likely to be lost on the way, for the text ironically inscribes the absence of the code. It is an empty style that can be borrowed by anyone at any time of history and it no longer signifies a core culture of an Oriental entity called Japan. It has indeed never signified as such except in one man’s nostalgia. We cannot deny the fact that the Mishima Affair in 1970 Japan was generated by its historical necessity: a resistance to the unstoppable force of American cultural colonisation. At the same time, however, the political implication of the affair, ‘far-right nationalism’, and the ritual suicides of its ending (19) were merely the styles of protest arbitrarily chosen from the past. It was a choice made by a personal preference, or perhaps one man’s nostalgia, in other words, a conscious mimicry or a post-modern simulacrum.
4.The tentative agenda of the postmodern world text
I have elaborated above the postmodern implications of two chosen texts: Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai and the Mishima Affair. I have also identified them as things outside of the modern. As Zizek pointed out, postmodernity is only recognisable when seen retroactively through a modernist gaze. It is then seen as inconsistent and incomplete. Mishima’s final action was criticised as historically incoherent and strategically inefficient; a coup d’état in modern democratic Japan was from anyone’s point of view unlikely to succeed. The fact that Mishima seemed to focus on dying rather than carrying out the coup was taken to be inauthentic on the part of his motive. Ghost Dog, on the other hand, does not entertain such criticism. We all know that it is make-believe, and the figure of Ghost Dog appeals more desirable than it would be in reality. The film narrates Ghost Dog’s inconsistency as something powerful that we dare not have.
What, then, is the difference between a make-believe and true story? What if Jarmusch suddenly confesses to someone like Oprah on a TV talk show that there is a real story behind his film? What if a historian discovers fifty years on that the Mishima Affair was a dramatic performance produced by an artist called Yukio Mishima? After all, is the Mishima Affair not a collection of stories narrated by many? It has taken place, but there is no ‘unmediated’ original text that holds the true. It is ready for circulation like any other text. In fact, do we not spot the similarity in the recent news from the Fiji? On the agenda is how to read the world text in which we live now, and how to narrate the events (Being) after the collapse of metanarratives.
- The incident has been dramatised by Paul Schrader in a film, Mishima: a Life in Four Chapters (1985).
- Following the ritual, Mishima cut open the lower stomach and had his head cut off by an assisting swordsman. The presence of abjection in the scene is threatening to the clean and proper space of modern Japan. By the term ‘obscene object’, I am referring to the Lacanian ‘Thing’, the incestuous maternal object, which is brought into proximity. See also Slavoj Zizek, ‘The Obscene Object of Postmodernity’ in Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1991, pp.141-53).
- One of the most unforgettable scenes is the young nationalist’s seppuku in front of the imaginary rising sun in Runaway Horses. (Trans. Michael Gallagher, Penguin Books, 1977. The original title is Honma, Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1969). He also produced a film, Yuukoku (traslated as Patriotism, 1965), and played the role of the main character, a newly wed army officer who dies by seppuku for failing to join a coup. The script was originally published as a short story in a literary magazine, Shosetsu Chuokoron in 1961.
- Mishima discusses the book of Hagakure in many occasions. See Mishima Yukio Hyoron Zenshu [The complete collection of the critical essays of Yukio Mishima] vol. I, pp. 689-732. (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1989). Mishima sometimes uses the English term ‘fetish’ in a context where sexual connotation is seemingly remote. If a fetish is a displaced object of desire, Hagakure correctly takes its place for Mishima rather than anything else.
- It goes without saying that the phrase comes from Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of Western Humanism. Cf. Ecce Homo. (Trans. & ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books 1989). Mishima was fluent in German, and Nietzsche was for him the most influential of all thinkers.
- See Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-fashioning: from More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, c1980).
- In my view, the emphasis is more obvious in Buddhist traditions. The pictorial nature of Chinese characters may also contribute to this, in Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures.
- See Fredric Jameson’s essay, ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’ in The Anti-Aesthetic – Essays on Postmodern Culture (ed. Hal Foster, Seattle: Bay Press, 1983).
- The film presupposes an American audience; their everyday life is surrounded by Japanese products – Honda, Toyota, Sony, Casio, Toshiba, Panasonic, Akai, and Sanyo, etc. The more familiar they feel with such high-tech products, the more uncanny the images of ‘ancient’ Japan become to them.
- It was initially used by Roland Barthes to advocate a new reading that does not aim the closure of a text, which had been the case of an institutional reading of literature in the modern times. He described the pleasure of reading as ‘jouissance /coming’. Here I am relating the term to so-called, ‘modernism’s Other‘.
- Zizek, ‘The Obscene Object of Postmodernity’, (original italics). Zizek offers an alternative perspective to the Habermas’s diachrony of modernism vs. postmodernism. See Looking Awry (1991).
- Zizek, ‘The Obscene Object of Postmodernity’.
- For beings and Being, see Gianni Vattimo’s ‘An Apology for Nihilism’ in The End of Modernity: Nihilism and Hermeneutics in Post-modern Culture (Trans. Jon R. Snyder, Cambridge: Polity, 1988).
- By this, I mean the widespread tendency to read non-English texts only for their difference. Any features that are peculiar in those texts are attributed to their cultural differences, rather than their own devices. Mishima’s seppuku is often discussed as if it represented the collective psyche of the Japanese, or at least it had connection to it.
- I use this term to relate to Arjun Appadurai’s insightful work, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalisation (Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press, c1996).
- In my view Julia Kristeva’s thesis on abjection is a useful means to critique the ways in which a modern subject is constructed. (See Powers of Horror, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982). The site of abjection has been marginalised and tucked away through the project of modernisation. The works of Michel Foucault’s are relevant to the issue. When a modern nation-state centralises its power and constructs clean and hygienic cities, it efficiently hides the sites of abjection: hospitals, prisons and mental asylums. Revolutions and wars bring back the sight of abjection to the peoples’ mind that has happily forgotten their own condition of corporeal existence.
- Cf. Jacques Lacan. Écrits: A Selection, London: Tavistock, 1997
- This Poe’s text was discussed by Jacque Lacan in ‘Seminar on “The Purloined Letter”‘ in Yale French Studies 48: 38-72, 1972. It was then followed by Jacque Derrida’s critique on Lacan’s essay, which was discussed by Barbara Johnson in ‘Philology: What is at Stake?’ published in On Philology. (Ed. Jan Ziolkowski, University Park: Penn State University Press, 1990, pp.26-30). It is ironic that during this circulation of text the original Poe’s text has lost its context (the meaning it may have conveyed to the readers of the time) and has transformed each time. It has indeed become a purloined letter.
- Another member of the ‘Shield Society’ followed Mishima’s seppuku on site. He was chosen by Mishima to die in the same manner. A member who assisted both by beheading them served sentences in prison. It is well documented how Mishima, who is a law graduate himself, anticipated in advance the cost of defence for the members involved.