Politics of Madness and the Dreamscape of Modernity in Riichi's Japan

Ray Chandrasekara
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The distinction between madness and normality, as we have learned from Foucault, is hardly as clear-cut as certain societies and historical eras have tried to make it. Indeed, the discourse on madness has been as charged socially and politically as the attempts to deal with AIDS today. Yet, if one thing is clear, it is that certain types of “madness,” ranging from obsession to alienation to schizophrenia, have informed the modernist project in ways unthinkable prior to the twentieth century.

The intellectual fascination with the mysteries of the mind, given unprecedented impetus by Freud, has led to what may be termed a politics of madness, whereby writers do battle over territories that they define in ever remote and recondite modes. That modernism led in both the west and in Japan to a proliferation of eccentric art forms and expressive activities is one reflection of this phenomenon. In the case of Japan, however, and at a time of increasing political repression of the proletarian left, there was what we may identify as a transference of that reification and fragmentation of social reality, to the inner mind itself. In this paper it will be argued that this process is apparent in two of Yokomitsu’s leading modernist works, “Machine” and “Time,” in which the obsession with the mind takes the form of a madness engineered by the metaphorical nature of social reality itself. At the downside of the analysis, the paper will reexamine the politics of this phenomenon in the tendency for the modernist project--with, to use Frederic Jameson’s sensually charged critical language, its throbbing charge of libidinal impulses--to take a fascist turn in both the west and Japan.

Keywords: Madness, Modernity
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, History, Historiography, Political Science, Politics, Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Politics of Madness and the Dreamscape of Modernity in Yokomitsu Richii's Japan

Ray Chandrasekara

Assistant Professor, Albany College of Pharmacy
Albany, New York, USA

Interests in literature, political science, history and culture of Asian societies, particularly Southeast Asia, India and Japan.
Currently an assistant profesor of Asian Studies in Albany College, New York.

Ref: H06P0449