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Narrating Intoxication in Japan in the Wake of the 1960s.

By Jason E. Herlands


In this dissertation, I examine the representation of drugs in fictional texts by four Japanese authors: “The Yellow Prostitute” by Mori Makiko, “Gray Coca-Cola” by Nakagami Kenji, Domesticated Yapoo by Numa Shôzô, and Almost Transparent Blue by Murakami Ryû. Intoxication highlights conflicts between society and individuals, issues of identity and desire, and the use of narrative to inscribe the individual onto representations not beholden to received notions of “reality.” Literature is an important node of constructing intoxication as discourse by highlighting the multitude of ways in which drugs function in our cultural imaginations. Intoxication fiction proves to be a potent site for signifying repressed and otherwise unrepresentable discourses. However, intoxication is also a trope through which fiction harnesses repressed desires and represents them according to recognizable linguistic and aesthetic codes. In the texts I take up, drugs circulate within a landscape where the expression of pleasures exceeds the socially permissible. Drugs are often deployed to open up a space for disruptive jouissance — the type of pleasure that unsettles a reader’s assumptions. Alternately, drugs harness and provide an (admittedly outrageous) legibility to pleasures that would — or should — otherwise be repressed. I study the representation of drug intoxication as it highlights a variety of constructed marginal positions that critique categorical boundaries. Drugs provide a supplement, a signifier, for imagining a margin whose referents repudiate the values of the communal welfare society of post-World War II Japan. From these margins, intoxication signifies a site of alternative “reality,” one that points to the fundamental ambiguity that haunts all constructions of reality and normativity. Drugs distort an image of mainstream society, portrayed from an equally artificial construction of the margins, as a challenge to the authority of any overdetermined notion of “reality.” As such, drugs are instrumental in presenting an uncomfortable literary reflection to a world that otherwise takes its own borders and categories as givens

Topics: Japanese Literature, Drug Intoxication
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