forest philosophies

Jonathan M. Hall jmhall at
Tue Jun 5 07:27:19 EDT 2007

Just a quick thought to follow on Melek's inspiring broadening of our  
discussion:  A great resource in English to consult on both Yanagita  
and Kyoka is Gerald Figal's Civilization and Monsters (Duke UP,  
1999).  I don't have the text near me, so I can't recall precisely  
what Figal has to say.   At least from my own readings, sometimes  
inspired sometimes by Figal, I remember quite significant differences  
between Yanagita and Kyoka. For the former, there seems to be a  
fundamentally modern logic of nostalgia, the need for science to  
categorize and save the past, while for the latter there seems a  
deliberate refusal to settle for the dominance of a modern linear  
temporality.  It would be interesting to see what similar differences  
we might find in these filmic representations of forest/nature.  I  
can imagine Himatsuri's final image of boots and dogs hovering above  
a glistening bay (spoiled with oil) has more in common with Kyoka  
than Yanagita, while Miyazaki seems, to me, to lie fully within the  
logic of nostalgia.


Jonathan M. Hall
Japanese Film, Media, and Modern Literature
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature / Film & Media Studies

320 Humanities Instructional Building
UC Irvine, Irvine CA 92697-2651 USA
office: 1-949-824-9778
fax: 1-949-824-1992

Co-Chair, Queer Caucus, Society for Cinema and Media Studies

On Jun 4, 2007, at 8:15 PM, Melek Ortabasi wrote:

> Since the original post requested non-samurai movies, it is telling  
> that what unites many of the movies/stories suggested is instead  
> the element of animistic belief that kami/spirits live in the  
> forest, which is often equated with the margins of society/ 
> civilization. Forest usually = mountains in Japanese folklore,  
> given that this is a dominant feature of the geography anyway. This  
> aesthetic can be found even in a brand new movie like _Mushishi_,  
> where the mushishi himself starts out as a "normal" human being but  
> eventually becomes a part of the slowly vanishing spirit world. (In  
> my opinion, the movie is disappointing for several reasons, but  
> nevertheless.....). Ditto on many of Miyazaki's animations, as  
> someone has already pointed out. One of the most important texts  
> that highlighted the nature of these beliefs, at least from a  
> modern perspective, is Yanagita Kunio's _Tôno monogatari_ (1910).  
> Izumi Kyôka, "master" of gothic fiction (and author of one of the  
> works suggested), was by the way a peer of Yanagita's and an  
> admirer of his work. Ditto on Miyazawa Kenji. Yanagita's book has  
> been made into a movie - which I haven't seen and is probably not  
> very much like the book (which is not a unified narrative but a  
> collection of short, often fragmentary sketches) - but it might be  
> worth checking out. (look at the listing on imdb). There is also a  
> translation of the text into English, which has some problems, but  
> is still very usable (by Ronald Morse, out of print but available  
> in many univ. libraries).
> Just my 2 cents; hope it helps.
> Cheers,
> Melek
> -- 
> Melek Ortabasi, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Comparative Literature
> Hamilton College
> Clinton, NY
> **Visiting Researcher at The University of Tokyo, 2006-2007**

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