my monkied brain (katekat1010) wrote,
my monkied brain

i do not think that means what you think it does

Yesterday we were talking about reading Japanese critical articles (for my Japanese Literature class, of course!) and the professor warned us that these articles aren't linear - they don't do the standard "set forth thesis and then prove it" kind of crap western rhetorical thought has been advocating for ages. 

She went on to point out that's part of the reason why some people want to say Japan is the only true (or is already a) postmodern society - because they've been thinking non-linearly, writing non-linearly, ect. for longer than the West has been scribbling on parchment.

She (even though she doesn't believe this - I know, because we've talked about it) referenced that great argument that the West is all linear and logical and structured, and the East is all intuitive and nonlinear and unstructured.

Then the woman next to me had to bring up The Crying of Lot 49 (except she actually said, "that Crying of ... 39 or whatever that book is called").  She said, "I just couldn't get into that... it just didn't make sense."

So sad.  So terribly sad.  Because The Crying of Lot 49 is a pretty delicious romp if you just let your expectations go and actually leave yourself in the hands of the author and just read.  Read in that way that you'd watch a movie if you came into it halfway on the movie channel - you know, when it's free, and you're bored but it's too hot/cold/rainy to go outside, and so you sit yourself down in front of the TV with the remote and dive into something that's halfway over because you saw the preview and nothing else is on.  I think that's how you have to read the pomo guys, because sometimes their story starts in the middle... heck, Delany starts in the middle of a sentence.

But this really didn't make me think about easier ways to read pomo.  Nah, instead I jumped in with my usual defense of the so called unreadable:  it has structure.  it has intent.  most of all, it's constructed.  some of this stuff is the most constructed and self-aware text that you'll ever read.  And so to dismiss it all as being confusing is to ignore the fact that it's intentionally interrupting your expectations of what's easy and fun to read.  Course I'm far more elegant now.

And my first impulse was to deny that space for Japan - it's not a postmodern society in the sense people want to label it, because the Western cultural and literary tradition that postmodernism is reacting to (or against) is NOT theirs. 

Then I realized that maybe, just maybe, I'm being totally naive about this whole thing - because maybe, just maybe, I'm wrong.  Dipesh Chakrabarty suggested (in Provincializing Europe) that colonial/subaltern theorists (and artists, and everybody else) are constantly being told that they have to sit at the little kid's table while the West makes all the critical and theoretical decisions.  He suggests that there's always an element of "look at me" that the West then has to pay attention to.... something like that.  And that the West then devalues any contribution by non-western peoples as not quite steeped in the tradition, not quite able to comprehend it, not quite ... there.

I don't know if that's what I'm doing with Japan.  Certainly Japanese scholars, since the country opened it's doors to the west, have been better read, and more engaged in responding and reacting to the intellectual debates.  It's just that not many people would listen to them.  It's why I think colonial theory could be useful at thinking about Japan.

It's all so damn cool that I may pee my pants, too.
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